Library honors servicemen who never returned home | News, Sports, Jobs


Sue Sitter / PCT John Gustafson, public relations representative for Rugby Clarence Larson American Legion Post 23, stands near an empty table for one at the Heart of America Public Library.

Visitors to the Heart of America Public Library will see a unique exhibit during the first weeks of September near the elevator.

A single chair sits against a dining table covered with a white tablecloth under a cover for one person. It’s a lonely spectacle in a public building, and that’s the point, according to John Gustafson, public relations representative for Rugby Clarence Larson American Legion Post 23.

Gustafson said the display serves as a visual tribute to National Prisoner of War / MIA Day, observed on September 17.

“Although it is not a national holiday, its importance cannot be understated”, Gustafson said in a written statement.

Gustafson said the table set for one symbolizes “The fragility of a single prisoner against his captors; a white tablecloth symbolizes the purity of their intentions to respond to their country’s call to arms; a single red rose is displayed to remind us of the families and loved ones of our comrades in arms who keep the faith while awaiting their return.

Other elements of the display include “A yellow ribbon tied around the vase representing the ribbons worn by thousands of people who demonstrate their unwavering determination to demand a proper account of our missing. A candle is lit, symbolizing the indomitable spirit of our departed. A slice of lemon reminds us of their bitter fate. The salt is on a bread plate representing the tears of the families as they wait. A glass is spilled because the missing cannot drink with us. A chair is empty because they are not there.

Gustavson added, “The best estimate from the Department of Defense POW / MIA office is that 1,741 US servicemen were missing or missing from the Vietnam War in April 2009.”

“In July 1979, Congress passed a resolution authorizing the National Prisoner of War / MIA Appreciation Day to be observed on July 18, 1979”, Gustafson added. “It took place on different days until 1986 when it was moved to the third Friday in September. Each year, the President issues a proclamation for the National Prisoner of War / MIA Appreciation Day. Many states issue their own proclamations.

Gustafson’s statement added, “One of the symbols of POW / MIA recognition is the POW / MIA flag. Designed by Newt Heisley, the flag features a silhouette of a young man, based on Heisley’s son, who was medically discharged from the military. Looking at the gaunt features of his returned son, he imagined what life was like for those in captivity. From there, he sketched the design of the new flag.

Gustafson said Americans remember the sacrifices of those who served and the prisoners of war and MIAs who never returned home in several ways. Some states host gatherings of veterans; The American Legion posts also organize various programs to remember this. The Rugby Clarence Larson Post 23 displays posters to educate the public about the history, service and sacrifices of military personnel in their communities.

In the Heart of America Public Library, a book titled, “America’s White Table” sits on the tabletop display. The white table display will be available for viewing at the library until September 18.

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