County doesn’t forget POW/MIAs
September 18, 2010
That was the message at the POW/MIA Recognition Day Program at General Joseph Warren Park on Friday evening. The Warren County United Veterans Council conducted a “Missing Man Table and Honors Ceremony” to recognize military personnel taken as prisoners of war and listed as missing in action.
Those in attendance were welcomed by Burt Alexander of the General Joseph H. Pendleton Detachment of the Marine Corps League and the invocation was provided by Al Harrison of the John Gertsch Memorial Home Association.
Warren City Manager, and member of the Marine Corps League, Jim Nelles spoke about the history of the POW/MIA flag and stated that it is the only flag, other than the American flag, to have flown over the White House. That flag is now on permanent display in the U.S. Capitol rotunda.
Nelles explained that the POW/MIA design was created by Newt Heisley, a commercial artist and former Army pilot that served in WWII, for the National League of Families in 1971. The silhouette of a man in profile is based on a sketch of Heisley’s son Jeffrey who had become ill with hepatitis after returning from basic training in the Marine Corps. Jeffrey’s gaunt face and frail body reminded Heisley of prisoners of war and he used his son’s image as their symbol along with images of barbed wire, a tower and the words “You are not forgotten” at the bottom. The design of the POW/MIA flag was never copyrighted as Heisley considered it a gift for all.
“This is the only country in the world that continues to search for those missing in action,” Nelles said as he listed statistics of missing military personnel from WWII, 74,064, to Desert Storm, 0.
As an example of the tireless efforts to recover remains of the missing, Nelles talked of U.S. Marine George Humphrey who died in 1918 while serving in WWI. Humphrey’s remains were found in northern France just this past March, 92 years after he was killed, which is a testament to the faith that those who served our country can be found and brought home.
Alexander then took the podium to explain the meaning and significance of the items placed on the Missing Man Table.
“The table is round and has no end, to show our everlasting concern for our missing men,” he said. “The tablecloth is white, symbolizing the purity of their motives when answering the call to duty.”
The single red rose, displayed in a vase, reminds us of the life of each of the missing, and the loved ones and friends of those who keep the faith, awaiting answers.
The vase is tied with a red ribbon, a symbol of our continued determination to account for the missing.
A slice of lemon on the bread plate is to remind us of the bitter fate of those captured and missing.
The salt symbolizes the tears shed by those missing and their families who seek answers.
The Bible represents the strength gained through faith to sustain those lost from our country, founded as one nation under God.
The drinking glass is inverted, to symbolize the missing’s inability to share the toast.
“The chairs are empty, because they are not here,” said Alexander. “And the candle is the light of hope to welcome them back with open arms.”
During the benediction, Harrison reminded the attendees that “freedom isn’t free, we should cherish it.”
Finally, Alexander quoted Major Michael O’Donnell, who was declared missing in action in 1970 and whose remains were identified in 2001, and urged everyone to take a moment to embrace those heroes left behind.