An empty seat. A powerful symbol.
An empty seat waiting to be filled. That’s the hope of Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital’s Remembrance Table, also known as America’s White Table.
Placed in the middle of Hines VA’s cafeteria, the table is for the more than 80,000 Veterans still missing in action or listed as prisoners of war. On Sept. 16, 2022, the United States marks another POW/MIA Recognition Day, and another year Hines’ seat remains empty.
The Remembrance Table is one of the hundreds of identical tables at VA medical facilities and U.S. military bases across the world. Each is set the same way, symbolizing those missing or captured, and those waiting for their return.
This table, set for one, is small to show the frailty of one prisoner alone.
The tablecloth is white, symbolic of the purity of their intentions to respond to their county’s call to arms.
The black napkin represents the sorrow of captivity.
The single red rose in the vase signifies the blood that many have shed to ensure the freedom of the United States of America. This rose also reminds us of the family and friends of our missing comrades who keep the faith, awaiting their return.
The yellow ribbon on the vase represents the yellow ribbons worn on the lapels of the thousands who demand a proper accounting of our comrades who are not among us.
A slice of lemon on the plate reminds us of their bitter fate.
The salt sprinkled on the plate reminds us of the countless fallen tears of families as they wait.
The glass is inverted because they cannot toast with us.
The candle is reminiscent of the light of hope that lives in our hearts to illuminate their way home, away from their captors, to the open arms of a grateful nation.
And last, the chair sits empty, because they are not here.
Every third Friday of September, America marks POW/MIA Recognition Day. However, every day holds empty seats for those still waiting for the return of their loved ones.
May they never be forgotten and one day come home.