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Air Force Chief Performs Special Missing Man Table Ceremony

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 6, 2003 – Chief Master Sgt. David L. Hamel delighted the audience with his rendition of the "Missing Person Table" ceremony during DoD's 9th annual POW/MIA Prayer Breakfast here today.

Hamel said he got involved with prisoner of war and missing in action ceremonies a few years ago and started wondering what former POWs would say about the empty chair at the Missing Man Table.

"Who is in that empty chair?" asked Hamel, who spent about 18 years working on aircraft ejection seats and canopies. Hamel, who has two master's degrees, is now director of the Air Force Enlisted Heritage Research Institute, College for Enlisted Professional Military Education at Maxwell Air Force Base-Gunter Annex, Ala.

"That bugged me for a while, and when I heard the song, 'Some Gave All,' by Billy Ray Cyrus, I said that's what it's about. I took the song and incorporated a few things. I built a hat rack to represent each of the services," he said.

In part, the words to the song are:

"All gave some and some gave all
"And some stood through for the red, white and blue
"And some had to fall
"And if you ever think of me
Think of all your liberties and recall
"Some gave all ."
Backed up by recorded music, Hamel sang his rendition of the song to the delight of the audience.

A member of the audience was overheard saying, "That was the best Missing Man Table ceremony I've ever seen."

Former POW retired Army Capt. Luis G. Chirichigno, a former enlisted man, said it was "a wonderful feeling to see that people who are missing are remembered, because I was missing in action. My name was never released as a POW. I refused to do things for them, and they refused to give me the opportunity to let my family know I was alive."

Chirichigno, a former Cobra gunship pilot, was shot down in November 1969 while trying to rescue another pilot. He spent three-and-a-half years as an MIA in Cambodia and North Vietnam. His wife and mother thought he was dead. His daughter was a year old when he became missing in action.

"I've been doing this for about a year now," Hamel noted. "We need to keep perpetuating the memory of those who are missing. We tend to forget as the years go by, but accounting for our folks is very important."

(The full lyrics to "Some Gave All" are on the Internet at www.angelfire.com/in3/amazed/SomeGaveAll.html.)

Words to the Missing Man Table ceremony, as prepared by the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia, are on the Web at www.pow-miafamilies.org/missingman.html.

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageAir Force Chief Master Sgt. David L. Hamel created a special "Missing Man Table" ceremony after wondering if former POWs would ask who is in the empty chair. Photo by Rudi Williams.  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageHolding his special display of caps representing each service, Air Force Chief Master Sgt. David L. Hamel chats with former Vietnam POW retired Army Capt. Luis G. Chirichigno during DoD's 9th annual POW/MIA Prayer Breakfast, Feb. 6, 2003. Photo by Rudi Williams.  
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