Retired Navy Captain Chuck Roots and his 9-year-old granddaughter Alyssa shared an emotional moment around a “Missing Man” place setting Saturday at the Ripon Veterans’ Day.
The “Missing Man” display was part of the eighth annual Veterans’ Day Observance at the Veterans Wall and Museum at Locust Avenue and First Street in downtown. It was hosted by Ripon’s American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars who laid a memorial wreath at the base of a statue of three soldiers holding their weapons.
Alyssa joined her grandfather near the podium and asked a series of well thought out questions about the place setting on a table in front of them. The table set for one traditionally symbolizes the frailty of isolated prisoners of war.
It is usually placed near the entrance of a dining room. For larger events the Missing Man Table is set for six places for members of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard.
Alyssa first asked why the table cloth was white. Roots answered that white is symbolic of the purity of the soldiers’ intentions to respond to their country’s call to arms.
“Why is there a red rose on the table,” she asked.
Dressed in his Class A uniform, her grandfather answered that the red rose in the vase signified the blood that many have shed in sacrifice to ensure the freedom of our beloved United States of America.
“This rose also reminds us of the family and friends of our missing comrades who’d keep the faith, while awaiting their return,” he said.
The red ribbon on the table represents the love of country, he added.
A slice of lemon on a bread plate is symbolic represents the bitter fate of the missing in action.
The salt sprinkled on a bread plate is symbolic of the countless fallen tears of families as they wait to hear about their loved ones.
An inverted glass represents the fact that the missing and fallen cannot partake in the dinner.
A bible on the table represents the strength gained through the faith of those who fell for our country founded as one nation under God.
A lit 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 nation.
The empty chair at the table notes the missing and fallen are not present at the dinner table.
Captain Roots told the audience of a Navy aviator who had been shot down in December of 1965 when he was assigned to Rough and Ready Island west of Stockton. He and another officer were assigned to go to the pilot’s home and notify his wife that his remains had been located.
Roots remembered after waiting for someone to come to the door, the wife opened it and leaning on the door asked, “What does the Navy want to tell me this time?”
His remains had finally been found in the jungles of Vietnam, he recalled, adding that the wife was very gracious and they helped her plan his funeral.
Roots was making the point that those missing in action and prisoners of war are real people and that can’t be forgotten. They all come from communities just like Ripon, adding it’s important we remember them.
To contact Glenn Kahl, email email@example.com.