MOHAVE VALLEY — America’s Prisoners of War and Missing in Action were remembered on 2018’s National POW-MIA Recognition Day in ceremonies held at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 404 in Mohave Valley on Friday.
Established in 1979, National POW/MIA Recognition Day is observed on the third Friday of each September; reinforced each year by presidential proclamation and further emphasized by 1998’s National Defense Authorization Act. It’s one of six days each year when the familiar black POW-MIA flag is flown at selected federal government offices. National ceremonies are traditionally presented at the Pentagon; local ceremonies are held globally at military installations, ships at sea, state capitols, schools and veterans’ facilities.
This year’s ceremonies gained extra impetus with the remains of U.S. Armed Forces personnel being returned from North Korea as part of an agreement reached between President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jong-un. The remains typically go to a laboratory of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency for DNA and other tests; some of those killed during the 50s-era Korean War were identified as recently as last week. Other examples of DPAA recovery efforts include a recovery mission conducted in Quang Binh, Vietnam, in August; and ongoing forensic examination of remains from the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.
At Post 404 Commander Mike Tharp led ceremonies which included a salute by the Post 404 Honor Guard and officers and a description of the components of permanent POW/MIA displays set up at most veterans’ organizations. Expanded to five place settings representing the U.S. Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard for Friday’s ceremonies, the displays typically consist of a single round table set for one, covered with a white cloth, and bearing a single red rose, a red ribbon, a slice of lemon, a pinch of salt, a Bible, a candle and an inverted glass; in front of which is an empty chair.
Commander Tharp, paraphrased here, offered an explanation of what each component represents. The small table symbolizes the frailty of one prisoner; round, showing everlasting concern for POW/MIAs. The white cloth is a symbol for purity of motive when answering the call to duty. The rose reminds of the lives of the POW/MIAs, their friends and families who continue to seek answers; the ribbon of the continued determination to account for them. The slice of lemon represents the bitter fate of those missing and those held prisoner in foreign lands; the salt of their tears and those of their families. The Bible represents strength gained through faith; the candle the light of hope. The glass is inverted as the POW/MIA cannot share the toast; the empty chair underscores they are missing and is to remind the viewer of their service and sacrifice.