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POW-MIA ceremony marks sad benchmark

By Joycelyn Biggs | Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany | September 14, 2015

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The annual POW-MIA prayer breakfast was held, Sept. 11, at the Town and Country Grand Ballroom aboard Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany.

The commemoration marks a sad benchmark, since the first breakfast held in 1997, because the event lacked the presence of a single POW-MIA person or family member.

Bob James, director, Base Operations and Training Division, MCLB Albany, addressed a capacity crowd who attended the event.

“It is just a sad sign of the times,” James said. “Although there are a few remaining heroes in the local area, their health does not permit them (to attend).”

In recognition of all service members in arms, including those missing and unaccounted for, a single table filled with a variety of items sat in the rear of the room.

James explained the significance of the commemorative table as well as each of the items in the place setting.

“The empty place setting represents Americans still missing from the five services,” he said. “The table is round to show our everlasting concern for those still missing and for the unaccounted. The black table cloth symbolizes our mourning for those who remain lost.

“The bud vase is white to symbolize the purity of their motives when they answered the call of duty,” he continued. “The single red rose reminds us that each of the missing represents an individual life. The vase is tied with a red ribbon a symbol of our determination to account for as many of our missing as possible. A slice of lemon on a plate reminds us of a bitter fate of our captured in a foreign land.

“A pinch of salt symbolizes a tear shed by those who were captured, those who remain missing and their families,” James added. “The Bible on the table represents the strength gained through faith that sustained those who were captured and the ‘one nation under God’ they served. The glass is inverted and the chair is empty to symbolize the inability of those who remain missing to share with us in this recognition.”

The base’s commanding officer encouraged attendees to remember and recognize the service members’ sacrifices in preserving our freedoms.

“We should stop, pause and remember the dedicated sacrifice and let families know how much we appreciate what their loved ones did,” Col. James Carroll III, CO, MCLB Albany, said. “This program marked an incredible opportunity to recognize those who paid an incredible price to keep our country free and those who continue to keep our country free.”

During the event, Maj. Alexander Vanston, staff secretary, Marine Corps Logistics Command, spoke about the three years he spent searching for missing service persons.

Vanston said his most memorable missions were those when family members were part of the search efforts, describing it as living history and humbling.

“It is the keeping of a sacred oath -- that when you put on the uniform -- if you do fall, we are going to come for you.”
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