Junkfood Science: Remember

May 28, 2007


Women placing flowers on the graves of their loved ones who had died serving in the Civil War may have been the origins of Memorial Day. More than 780,000 Americans died during that war. Unfathomable numbers.

It’s equally hard to invision the numbers who served in World War II — 16.1 million — and the more than 407,000 who died and the 671,000 more who were wounded. With strength and resolve, men and women have served and lost their lives for us. Across the county, there are Americans remembering someone today among the 116,708 who died in World War I, the 36,512 during the Korean War, the 58,193 in Vietnam, the 148 in the Gulf, the 279 in Afghanistan, and the 2,406 who’ve died so far in Iraq. All are heroes. And they've made our country proud.

Memorial Day has become a day to remember and honor the men and women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice to defend our country and ensure our freedoms. Some honor the fallen with great fanfare, barbecues and parades; others in very quiet, private moments of remembrance.

One of the loveliest tributes is a special military tradition of remembering those who aren’t here to eat with us, but remain in our hearts. The Missing Man Table. While each ceremony is slightly different depending on where it is held, each is a solumn, prayerful memorial....

A special table is set with an empty place to represent the missing brave men and women who answered our nation’s call to serve. It is a table set for one, symbolizing the frailty of a single prisoner alone against oppressors. The table is round to show our everlasting concern for our missing. The tablecloth is white, symbolizing the purity of their intentions to respond to their nation’s call to arms so that their children could remain free.

A single red rose in a vase signifies the blood they may have shed and to remind us of the family and friends of our missing comrades who keep the faith awaiting their return. A yellow ribbon around the vase symbolizes the everlasting hope for a joyous reunion with those yet unaccounted.

A folded American Flag may be rest on the table to represent those who’ve given the ultimate sacrifice.

A slice of lemon sits on a bread plate to recognize the bitter fate of those captured and missing in a foreign land. A sprinkling of salt symbolizes the countless fallen tears of the missing and their families who seek answers.

The wineglass is inverted, reminding us that the missing cannot be here to drink a toast or join in the festivities today. A candle is lit, signifying the light of hope which lives in our hearts to illuminate their way home to the open arms of a grateful nation.

The chair remains empty for they are not here with us today, but their place at the table is saved for their hoped return.

Let us remember and never forget their sacrifices. As we raise our glasses in a toast to honor America’s POWs and MIAs, may all who serve return home safe.

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