The Missing Man Table Ceremony
The Missing Men Table Ceremony is generally done at banquets, dinners, or any other occasions where setting up a dinner table would appear appropriate. The reason for this ceremony is to acknowledge the inability of our missing to be with us in the celebrations we hold, because they have been left behind, and to honor their sacrifice for this country. This is a very moving ceremony and has been known to spark interest in people who never realized the scope of this issue.
Modifications can be made for a smaller space, using just one place setting to represent all brances of the service. Other modifications can be made for other kinds of events, such as assemblies, conventions, meetings, ect. We have used a version in which we lined up 6 chairs side by side, covered them in black drapes, and set one of the military (and civilian) hats on each chair. Also was a wide based (for stability) candle holder with candle placed behind each hat. The ceremony was read with the appropriate modification of wording to fit that setting.
“Official Missing Man Table & Honors Ceremony”
As you entered the dining area, you may have noticed a table at the front, raised to call your attention to its purpose — it is reserved to honor our missing loved ones [or missing comrades in arms, for veterans].
Set for six, the empty places represent Americans still [our men] missing from each of the five services — Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard –– and civilians. This Honors Ceremony symbolizes that they are with us, here in spirit.
Some [here] in this room were very young when they were sent into combat; however, all Americans should never forget the brave men and women who answered our nation’s call [to serve] and served the cause of freedom with honor.
I would like to ask you to stand, and remain standing for a moment of silent prayer, as the Honor Guard places the five service covers and a civilian cap on each empty plate. [NOTE: if you do not have an honor guard participating, place the hats on the empty plates as you are setting up the table.]
Honor Guard: (In silence or with dignified, quiet music as background, the Honor Guard moves into position around the table and simultaneously places the covers of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard, and a civilian hat, on the dinner plate at each table setting. The Honor Guard then departs.)
Please be seated ……. I would like to explain the meaning of the items on this special table.
The table is round — to show our everlasting concern for our missing men.
The tablecloth is white — symbolizing the purity of their motives when answering the call to duty.
The single red rose, displayed in a vase, reminds us of the life of each of the missing, and the loved ones and friends of these Americans who keep the faith, awaiting answers.
The vase is tied with a red ribbon, symbol of our continued determination to account for our missing.
A slice of lemon on the bread plate is to remind us of the bitter fate of those captured and missing in a foreign land.
A pinch of salt symbolizes the tears endured by those missing and their families who seek answers.
The Bible represents the strength gained through faith to sustain those lost from our country, founded as one nation under God.
The glass is inverted — to symbolize their inability to share this evening’s [morning”s/day”s] toast.
The chairs are empty — they are missing.
Let us now raise our water glasses in a toast to honor America’s POW/MIAs and to the success of our efforts to account for them.
TABLE SET UP:
A round table
Place setting for 6 (or single place setting), preferably all white
Dress hats for each branch of service, and one civilian (plain) ball cap (the hats hare placed in the center of the dinner plate)
Wine glasses – inverted
Slice of lemon on bread plates with a pile of spilled salt
Small bud vase with a single stem red rose
RED ribbon tied around the vase
Candle – lit
A Version for Use at Military Installations
Lest We Forget…
As you entered the Mess this evening, you may have noticed a small table in the place of honor. It is set for one. Please let me explain. The military caste is filled with symbology. This table is our way of symbolizing the fact that members of our profession of arms are missing from our midst. They are commonly called P.O.W or M.I.A. We call them “BROTHERS”. They are unable to be with us this evening and so we remember them because of their incarceration.
This table set for one is small, symbolizing the frailty of one prisoner alone against his aggressors. REMEMBER!!
The tablecloth is white, symbolizing the purity of their intentions to respond to their country’s call to arms. REMEMBER!!
REMEMBER, the single rose displayed in a vase reminds us of the families and loved ones of our comrades-in-arms who keep the faith awaiting his return.
REMEMBER, the red ribbon tied so prominently to the vase is reminiscent of the red ribbon worn on the lapel and breast of those who bear witness to their unyielding determination to demand a proper accounting of our missing.
REMEMBER, a slice of lemon is on the bread plate to remind us of their bitter fate.
There is salt upon the bread plate, symbolic of the families tears as they wait. REMEMBER!!
The glass is inverted–they cannot toast with us this night. REMEMBER!!
REMEMBER–all of you who served with them and called them comrades, who depended upon their might and aid, and relied upon them, for surely, they have not forsaken you.