GALLIPOLIS — Area veterans and residents gathered in Gallipolis City Park Friday morning to remember the nationally-proclaimed POW and MIA Recognition Day in honor of those who had sacrificed for their country in the line of duty.
Jim Cozza gave the introduction to the service and VFW Chaplain Keith Sheets gave the invocation.VFW Post 4464 Honor Guard presented the Colors and Annette Holiday led the crowd through the Star-Spangled Banner as well as other patriotic songs. Gallipolis City Commissioner Tony Gallagher read a proclamation for POW and MIA Recognition Day in support with Gallia Commissioner Harold Montgomery and City Commissioner Mike Fulks. Gallia Veterans Service Commission President Gary Fenderbosch spoke of the significance of the Missing Man Table set in honor to remember those who had been taken as prisoners of war or gone missing in action.
“We would like to take the opportunity to remember the incredible cost paid by those who gave all to help preserve our freedoms that we enjoy,” said Fenderbosch,”those gallant who gave for this country. Yet, it is also our fallen comrades through which we are reminded of those whose fate is still unknown, those listed as missing in action and as prisoners of war. Seventy-eight-thousand Americans are unaccounted for from World War II, 8,100 from Korea, 120 from the Cold War, 1,810 from Vietnam and three from the Gulf War. These courageous Americans who dedicated their lives to preserving and protecting our freedoms will never be forgotten. To honor these men and women I will be reading and explaining the POW MIA Empty Chair Ceremony.”
According to Fenderbosch, the table symbolizes the frailty of an isolated prisoner. The tablecloth is white and symbolic of the purity of the individual’s intentions to respond to their country’s call to arms. A single rose in a vase signifies the blood shed in sacrifice for country. The ribbon on vase represents the ribbons worn on lapels of the thousands who demand a proper accounting of comrades not among the public. The slice of lemon on a plate reminds others of the bitter fate of the missing. The salt on the plate reminds others of the tears shed as families wait for their loved ones return. The inverted glass is to remind others of those who cannot toast with their family and friends at the current time. The candles remind others of the light of hope that a soldier will return home. The American Flag reminds others that many may never return and reminds others of the pain and sacrifice to ensure freedom. Flags of the various military branches stand for those who served in their respective branches. The empty chair serves as the largest reminder of those who are still missing.
President of the Gallia Chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America Larry Marr presented information in honor of a missing Gallia soldier named Fred Mooney whose body was never recovered. Of Northup, he was killed in action February 27, 1971 as an Army Sergeant 1st Class in the country Laos.
“I am honored to be asked to do this and I want to make it clear; I went all over the world and never got shot at,” said keynote speaker and Lutheran Pastor John Jackson. “I am not one of these many people that are here from Korea or Vietnam who went through terrible experiences in combat and life and living conditions…I’m a person who was very blessed to not be shot at and I’m thankful to be counted among (veterans) numbers.”
Jackson previously served as a military chaplain in Bosnia.
“To honor our POWs, what can we do?” said Jackson. “Pay attention to this important point. Anybody who is a combat veteran, POW or whatever, the most important thing for us to do is not talk to them but listen to them. There is great healing in telling your story over and over again. Try in every way to understand what people go through and to listen to what they go through. It is horrendous what a person goes through as a prisoner of war.”
Jackson in the past has also served as a counselor to individuals who have suffered through trauma and addiction in his role as a chaplain.
“When you read about these fellas (POWs and MIA) and their situation, they had nothing,” said Jackson. “Their desire and their spirit and their willingness to serve and their wanting to live carried them through. Listen to them and any other veteran when and where we have the opportunity.”
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.