I wore one in undergraduate school – a POW MIA bracelet. I don’t remember the name on it, just that I wore it every single day (even though it turned my wrist green). I thought of that copper bracelet today as we observed National POW/MIA Recognition Day and wondered if my veteran (He was a Lt., that’s all I remember) had ever been found.
Four decades after he went missing, one local Vietnam veteran – Senior Master Sgt. Gary Pate, a 1964 Fayette County High School graduate – was found. Those who knew Gary say that his thoughts were focused on the future even as he faced death every single day in Vietnam. He got engaged, was having his wedding suit made, and the couple had ordered their china. By all accounts, he was looking forward to the life he would live when he came home. On May 22, 1968, Pate’s C-130 Hercules crashed in the enemy-riddled jungle. No body was ever discovered, no flag-draped casket was shipped home, and nothing was known except that his plane went down, taking all crew members with it.
The war eventually ended, but the U. S. Air Force refused to give up, continuing to search for POWs and MIAs. Forty-one years later the Air Force found dog tags belonging to Gary Pate. Gary’s remains and the remains of his seven fellow crew men are buried together in a single coffin in Arlington National Cemetery.
Today The Engineer, Alison, and I attended a ceremony dedicated to remembering the men and women who remain on the POW/MIA list of all wars, and let me tell you: the numbers are staggering. It would take a lot of fingers and toes to add them all up. A lot.
At this morning’s ceremony, a wreath was laid, the flag was flown, and the richly symbolic Missing Man table was set. The table is round to show our everlasting concern. An empty white (purity of intentions) chair represents the POW/MIA who is unable to join us at the table. The glass is inverted because they are unable to join us in a toast. A single red rose reminds us of the lives of these Americans and of their loved ones who continue to worry and wonder. A slice of lemon is on the table to remind us of their bitter fate, a pinch of salt symbolizes tears, and a lighted candle reflects our hope for their return . . . dead or alive. It was quite moving – the table, the stories, the numbers, and I’m glad we went. The entire ceremony lasted about twenty minutes.
Time well spent.
In Our Own Language 4:16
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I (the woman who flat-out loves her) stitch her drawings.
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