On a rainy Monday in Ocean City, several hundred people gathered at the Ocean City Tabernacle to remember the men and women who have died in service of their country.
Chief Master Sgt. (Ret.) Michael Francis of the Air National Guard, veterans liaison to U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo, was the keynote speaker and a central part of the ceremony. He spoke about numerous assistance programs available to veterans.
Jack Hagan, Adjunct at Ocean City’s American Legion, explained the significance of the tradition of setting a separate table in honor of our prisoners of war and missing comrades which has been in place since the end of the Vietnam War. The manner in which this table is decorated is full of special symbols to help us remember those who are not with us today.
The POW/MIA table is smaller than the others, symbolizing the frailty of one prisoner alone against his or her oppressors. This table is separate from the others.
The white tablecloth draped over the table represents the purity of their response to our country’s call to arms.
The empty chair depicts an unknown face, representing no specific Soldier, Sailor, Airman, or Marine, but all who are not here with us.
The table itself is round to show that our concern for them is never ending.
The Bible represents faith in a higher power and the pledge to our country, founded as one nation under God.
The black napkin stands for the emptiness these warriors have left in the hearts of their families and friends.
The single red rose reminds us of their families and loved ones. The red ribbon represents the love of our country, which inspired them to answer the nation’s call.
The yellow candle and it’s yellow ribbon symbolize the everlasting hope for a joyous reunion with those yet accounted for.
The slices of lemon on the bread plate remind us of their bitter fate.
The salt upon the bread plate represent the tears of their families.
The wine glass, turned upside down, reminds us of those that cannot be with us to drink a toast.
The names of Ocean City’s fallen service members are honored on a memorial wall at Veterans Memorial Park. Each Soldier’s name was read aloud during the “Honor Roll,” an annual part of the ceremony, by Commander Bob Marzulli of Ocean City American Legion.
Ocean City Intermediate School student Julia Wilson sang the National Anthem and God Bless America.
It was a beautiful ceremony that left the large crowd with a better appreciation for the many sacrifices that our soldiers and their families make for us each day.