The POW/MIA or Missing Man Table

Sept. 15, 2021
The POW/MIA or Missing Man Table

The POW/MIA Missing Man Table ceremony is a dignified and solemn moment in many formal dinners and other occasions.

There have been many different narratives written for the ceremony, but the symbolism is quite constant. It involves a table, usually set off to the side, with a single chair.

The table is set with a white tablecloth, a single candle, a book of faith (optional), an inverted glass, and a single red rose in a vase, around which is tied a red or yellow ribbon.

A group of military hats and a rose in a vase sit on a table.
Missing Man Table
The ‘Missing Man Table’ sits at the Prisoner of War and Missing in Action Closing Ceremony at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., Sept. 18, 2020. Each detail of the table symbolizes an aspect of the POW/MIA’s life or fate, or of those whom they left behind. The table is displayed to signify those who are missing but are not forgotten.
Photo By: Air Force Senior Airman Hanah Abercrombie
VIRIN: 200918-F-IZ563-2001

Set at the table is a plate containing a slice of lemon and a small amount of salt.

There is nothing more poignant than witnessing the empty chair sitting at a POW/MIA table with incredible significance for every displayed feature of this ritual.

Witnessing the ceremony that accompanies this memorable event brings more than just a single emotion. The ceremony is performed many times, throughout the year, at official military events in remembrance and in honor of all POW/MIAs.

Service hats represent each branch of service on the POW/MIA table. Every year, members from Joint Base Charleston participate in a 24-hour vigil run, a luncheon to honor prisoners of war and those that are missing in action, as well as a formal retreat ceremony.
2016 POW/MIA
Service hats represent each branch of service on the POW/MIA table. Every year, members from Joint Base Charleston participate in a 24-hour vigil run, a luncheon to honor prisoners of war and those that are missing in action, as well as a formal retreat ceremony.
Photo By: Airman 1st Class Kevin West
VIRIN: 160916-F-FU330-013

Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency National POW/MIA Recognition Day ToolKit.


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