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Oak Harbor VFW rededicates POW/MIA memorial

Local veterans from all branches of the military, and first responders, perform the ‘Missing Man’ ceremony Sept. 20 at the Oak Harbor VFW Post No. 7392. - Janis Reid/Whidbey News-Times
Local veterans from all branches of the military, and first responders, perform the ‘Missing Man’ ceremony Sept. 20 at the Oak Harbor VFW Post No. 7392.
— image credit: Janis Reid/Whidbey News-Times

For those gathered  Sept. 20 at the Oak Harbor Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7392, it was all about remembering.

“We remember those who gave their lives in service to our nation and to protect the freedoms we enjoy today,” said NAS Whidbey Command Chaplain Lt. Tim Loney who spoke at the event. “Let us not forget their sacrifice.”

The rare re-dedication ceremony of the post’s POW/MIA memorial table brought a tear to the eye of more than one veteran.

On Sept. 20, 41 years to the date of the event, Lt. Cmdrs. Harry Mossman and Roderick Lester launched from the deck of the USS Kitty Hawk to fulfill and mission in Vietnam from which they never returned.

“I had the immense honor of participating in the memorial ceremony on Aug. 30, 2004, as the repatriated remains of Lt. Cmdr. Harry Mossman were finally buried at the Tacoma National Cemetery,” Loney said.

“It took over 30 years before his family could say their goodbyes and quit wondering what had happened to Lt. Cmdr. Harry Mossman.”

For this reason, Oak Harbor’s VFW post felt it important to rededicate its thoughts and efforts toward the military and first responders who are MIA/POW.

The simple round table is a physical reminder of any serviceman or woman who has not yet come home.

“We have to remember because we have been there,” said organizer Myron Brundage, Sr. vice commander of the post and a Vietnam vet.

Post Cmdr. Cecil Pierce said the VFW normally has a small ceremony, but that this year’s was planned to be “up a notch” as a unique experience for local veterans.

“It’s a first for the post as far as I know,” Pierce said.

Unlike previous years the post is rededicating each symbolic item on the table, and adding a few new elements to the event.

Like previous years, the event also remembered one of their own, Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, an Oak Harbor resident who has been a prisoner of war since June 30, 2009, when he was captured in Afghanistan by members of the Haqqani network.

However the location of the table was changed, a “quarter deck” style red carpet was rolled out, a bell-ringing ceremony was added and the items included on the table were brought in individually by the VFW Riders.

While each branch of the service has their own unique interpretation of the table’s symbols, they are all essentially the same, providing small remembrances of the country’s prisoners of war and missing in action servicemen and women, Brundage said.

The table is set for one, symbolizing a prisoner’s solitude.

The tablecloth is white for the purity of their service.

The single red rose calls to mind the families awaiting the return of their loved one.

The candle is lit symbolizing the unconquerable spirit.

Lemon and salt are on the plate reminding of their bitter fate and the salt of their families tears.

The glass is inverted because they cannot toast, and the chair is empty because they are not here.

Two members of the state Honor Guard assisted with the ceremony, Keith Waldridge and Darrell Small, along with the Patriot Guard Riders who provided a flag line, with flags courtesy of the Oak Harbor Lion’s Club.

“For the families who wait and wonder, you are not forgotten,” Loney said.

 

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