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Nation’s missing soldiers remembered at service

By Noelle Edwards
nedwards@salisburypost.com
People gathered to remember prisoners of war and soldiers missing in action Friday at the W.G. “Bill” Hefner VA Medical Center.
The service, at the VA chapel, included typical ceremonies: taps, Pledge of Allegiance, national anthem.
It also included a more rare ceremony, one event organizer Hercules Shannon said is left out of even POW/MIA remembrance ceremonies.
It was the empty table ceremony, and each element of the setup ó a table, table cloth, red rose, red ribbon, slice of lemon, pinch of salt, Bible, upside-down glass and empty chairs ó symbolized some part of the search for and remembrance of missing soldiers or war prisoners.
Shannon is part of the state’s POW/MIA committee, and he said he approached the VA center about helping to organize the ceremony because too often such ceremonies are done sloppily.
“Let’s go on and do this thing right,” he remembers telling VA leaders.
He bought some of the supplies for the ceremony with his own money because he wanted to remember soldiers who are absent and show support for efforts to find them or their remains.
ROTC cadets from West Rowan and Salisbury high schools participated in the ceremony. West Rowan cadets Alex Peeler, Gage Cook, Cortney Shoemaker, Jamie Bailey, Colin Weaver and Nolen Rich placed service covers ó one for each branch of the military ó and a civilian cap representing Americans missing or imprisoned overseas. A cadet from Salisbury High lit candles at the table.
“I’m just happy that everything turned out OK,” Shannon said, though he was disappointed in the small turnout.
He made sure people took pictures of the ceremony so he can use them to teach people in other areas how to do a ceremony the official way.
“It’s a job I love doing,” he said.
Here are what the components of the ceremony symbolize:
– round table: everlasting concern for missing men and women
– white tablecloth: purity of motives in answering the call to duty
– single red rose in vase: life of each missing person and loved ones who keep waiting
– red ribbon tied around vase: determination to account for our missing
– slice of lemon on the bread plate: the bitter fate of those captured and missing in a foreign land
– pinch of salt: tears of those missing and their families who seek answers
– Bible: strength gained through faith to sustain those lost from our country, founded as one nation under God
– inverted glass: absentees’ inability to join in the festivities
– empty chairs: missing men and women

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