The SouthWest Edgecombe High School Air Force Junior ROTC unit paid tribute to Americans who were captured in combat and to those who have not returned home during National Prisoner of War/Missing In Action Day on Sept. 17.
Cadets guarded the POW/MIA table in 30-minute shifts, positioned between the American and POW/MIA flags.
“It was a great honor to be a part of this ceremony and to serve those who have fought for my freedom and never came home. My legs felt a little weak but I thought about the soldiers who have suffered and I stayed there standing in their honor,” said Cadet Staff Sergeant Dylan Page.
On the table, covered in white table-cloth, were two inverted glasses, a plate of salt, a rose in a vase with black, blue, white and blue ribbons tied around it, a wedge of lemon on a bread plate and the faded picture of a soldier, all symbols of a nation’s loss.
The white tablecloth represents the purity of their intent, the lemon wedge on the bread plate represents their bitter fate and the salt on the dinner plate signifies the tears that have been shed for these patriots.
“These young men and women are carrying on an American tradition” said retired Air Force colonel and JROTC instructor, Mike Whitehurst, “For 30 minutes ,nothing will avert their attention from the mission they’re on.”
The first commemoration to honor America’s POW/MIAs was held July 18, 1979.
President Barack Obama issued a proclamation this year declaring Sept. 17 as National POW/MIA Recognition Day and asked that Americans not forget the Americans who’ve made, and continue to make, sacrifices for the United States.