Today is Veterans' Day, 2012. It has been a very special day for me, and I trust it has been for all of those who served in the military, no matter what branch it was in. My late husband, Ivan, was in the Korean War from 1952-1954. I think he was prouder of that service than anything else he ever did in his life. I have his medals in my office where they are clearly visible.
Yesterday I did a craft fair at the VFW in Menominee, Michigan. My latest book, St. Peter by the Bay
(the 4th Patrick and Grace Mystery) is set in Marinette, WI and Menominee, sister cities. The story line deals with a VietNam Vet and the book is dedicated to all VietNam Vets everywhere. Yesterday, as several men came to my table (usually with their wives), I told them about the book. Several of the men said things like "I was one of them," or "I was there." One man, I would guess probably in his 70s, came over to the table alone. I showed him the book and he said, "I was one of them. I didn't think anybody cared." He said he was a Sgt. and was there for over 5 years. I thanked him for his part in giving us our freedom, and I told him I was proud of him. I asked him his first name, and it was with great pride that I signed the book to him and thanked him again. He wiped a tear from his eye and left, with a smile on his face.
(Another of my books, A Christmas Dream
, has a story line about a Desert Storm soldier who gave his life there. His death in the book was based on an actual experience a friend of my oldest son, Wilbert, went through. It is dedicated to Desert Storm Veterans and those who gave their lives in that conflict.) You can order either of the books by just clicking on the titles.
But on to today. We had a somewhat shorter than usual church service, as the local Amberg Veterans' Day ceremony was set to begin at 11 o'clock, as always. It just happens to fall on Sunday this year. We made our way from the church to the Community Center. The service is outside. There is a big glass encased list of soldiers who have family here. Some are still living, others have passed on. The cost to list a loved one is only $2.00. I gladly paid the $4.00 and listed Ivan H. Smith (Korean War) and his father, Howard V. Smith (World War I).
The ceremony itself is a very moving experience. The local commander of the American Legion leads it. The Veterans, dressed in their dark blue shirts and gold ties, all stand in a line in the front of the Community Center. The chaplain reads a prayer. To me one of the most moving parts is the ceremony of the vacant chair, which honors the POWs and MIAs. A very dear friend of mine, a VietNam veteran of many years, told me the story behind the empty chair some time ago. I will share the script with you all at the end of this post. The pledge of allegiance was recited by all in attendance, as we watched the flag fly proudly. A short speech was given by a Wisconsin state senator. Taps were played, as all the military members doffed their caps and saluted. Then there was the lighting of the tree. Each year, two of the big evergreens in the yard of the Community Center are trimmed with red, white and blue lights to honor our Veterans. The final act was a closing prayer by the chaplain.
I know there have been a lot of ugly things said about the US and its politics as we went through this election. I've never seen it so nasty. I have been in several other countries, and this is still the best land in the world. We are free to worship, free to express ourselves without being thrown in jail because we don't agree with somebody else, free to come and go anywhere we want to, and free to be you and me. Long live the USA! And God bless every one of you who have fought to give us those rights.
Here is the script for the ceremony for the POWs and MIAs.
POW/MIA EMPTY CHAIR CEREMONY
(This ceremony is not a replacement of, but an enhancement to, the Officers Guide)
We would like to take this opportunity to remember the incredible cost paid
by those who gave their all to help preserve the freedoms we enjoy, those gallant
individuals who fought and died for our country. Yet, it is in remembering our
fallen comrades that we are reminded of those whose fate is still unknown, those
still listed as Missing In Action and Prisoners Of War.
More than 78,000 Americans are still unaccounted for from World War II;
8,100 from Korea; 120 from the Cold War; 1,810 from Viet Nam; and 3 from the
Gulf War. These courageous Americans, who dedicated their lives to preserving
and protecting our freedom, will never be forgotten.
To honor these men and women, we will perform the POW/MIA Empty
(The italicized script has been added to the original ceremony keeping within our guidelines of being able
to add to but not subtract from an official ceremony)
Those who have served and those currently serving in the uniformed
services of the United States are ever mindful that the sweetness of enduring peace
has always been tainted by the bitterness of personal sacrifice. We are compelled
to never forget that while we enjoy our daily pleasures, there are others who have
endured and may still be enduring the agonies of pain, deprivation, and internment.
We call your attention to this small table which occupies a place of dignity
and honor. It is being set for one, symbolizing the fact that members of our armed
forces are missing from our ranks. They are referred to as POWs and MIAs.
We call them comrades. They are unable to be with their loved ones and
families, so we join together to pay our humble tribute to them, and to bear witness
to their continued absence.
The Table is round symbolizing the frailty of one prisoner, alone against his or her
(The following script may be read or recited by the Commander or each member of the team as
they perform their assignment)
The Tablecloth is white, symbolic of the purity of their intentions to respond to
their Country’s call to arms.
The table is being Set for One, symbolizing the frailty of one prisoner, alone
against his or her oppressors.
The Yellow Ribbon on the Vase represents the yellow ribbons worn on the lapels
of thousands who demand, with unyielding determination, a proper account of our
comrades who are not among us.
The Single Rose in the vase signifies the blood they may have shed in sacrifice to
ensure the freedom of our beloved United States of America. This rose reminds us
of the family and friends of our missing comrades who keep faith, while awaiting
A Slice of Lemon on the bread plate is to remind us of their bitter fate, those
captured and missing in a foreign land.
The Salt being sprinkled on the plate is to remind us of the countless tears of those
who have never come home and of the tears of their families and friends, whose
grief knows no end.
The Bible serves to remind us of the comfort of faith offered to those who face
seemingly insurmountable challenges, and it also reminds us of our country being
founded on the principle of One Nation Under God.
The Glass is inverted; they cannot toast with us this day/night.
The Candle is reminiscent of the light of hope, which lives in our hearts to
illuminate their way home, away from their captors, to the open arms of a grateful
The American Flag reminds us that many may never return and have paid the
supreme sacrifice to insure our freedom. The Flag of the American Legion,
reminds us of our organization that has pledged full accountability for all who
have not returned.
The Chair is empty, our Comrades are missing.