The Missing Soldier Table Protocol

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A general protocol, often called the POW/MIA Table Ceremony or Remembrance Ceremony, is used on ceremonial occasions to remember those soldiers who did not return from war but whose return is still hoped for.

1 Symbolism of the Table

A small table represents the prisoner's frailty.

The center of the remembrance ceremony is a small, unoccupied table. Each item on the table, as well as the table itself, has symbolic meaning. Following opening remarks, a recitation of the meaning of the symbols is a part of the ceremony.

2 Symbols of Purity, Sacrifice and Resolve

The soldier's sacrifice is symbolized by a red rose.

The table is small, signifying a soldier’s frailty against his captors. It is covered with a white tablecloth, denoting the purity of his intentions in responding to his country’s call. A single red rose in a vase signifies the blood he may have shed to ensure others' freedom. A red ribbon tied around the vase signifies unyielding resolve to get an accounting of all those who have not returned.

3 Symbols of Sorrow and Hope

A candle signifies the desire to light the way home.

Salt sprinkled on the plate represents the tears shed for the soldier. A slice of lemon on a plate represents the bitterness of her fate. An inverted wine glass serves as a reminder that she cannot join loved ones in toasts. A single burning candle represents the light of hope and an illumination to guide the way home.

A writer living in New Mexico, Jon McPhee began writing in 2005. McPhee holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in comparative literature from Indiana University and received his Juris Doctorate from DePaul University College of Law, where he served as a contributing editor for DePaul’s Hospital Law Newsletter.