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In Remembrance

The POW/MIA Toast

The POW/MIA Toast is a dignified and solemn moment in many formal dinners and other occasions.  There have been many different narratives written for the toast, 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 table cloth, a single candle, an inverted glass, and a single red rose in a vase, around which is tied a red ribbon.  Set at the table is a bread plate containing a piece of bread, a slice of lemon, and a small mound of salt.

The MIA/POW Toast usually follows the "Posting of the Colors" and the "National Anthem in the order of the program.

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As you entered the banquet hall this evening, you may have noticed a small table here in a place of honor near our head table.  It is set for one.  Please let me explain.  The military caste is filled with symbology.  This table is our way of symbolizing the fact that members of our profession of arms are missing from our midst.  They are commonly called P.O.W./M.I.A., we call them "Brothers".  They are unable to be with us this evening, and so we remember them because of their incarceration.

  • This TABLE set for one is small - symbolizing the frailty of one prisoner alone against his oppressors.

  • The TABLECLOTH is white - symbolizing the purity of their intentions to respond to their country's call to arms.  REMEMBER!

  • The single ROSE displayed in a vase reminds us of the families and loved ones of our comrades-in-arms who keep the faith awaiting their return.  REMEMBER!

  • The RED RIBBON tied so prominently on the vase is reminiscent of the red ribbon worn on the lapel and breasts of thousands who bear witness to their unyielding determination to demand a proper accounting of our missing.   REMEMBER!

  • A SLICE OF LEMON is on the bread plate to remind us of their bitter fate.  REMEMBER!

  • There is SALT upon the bread plate - symbolic of the families' tears as they wait.  REMEMBER!

  • The GLASS is inverted - they can not toast with us this night.  REMEMBER!

  • The CHAIR - the chair is empty - they are not here.  REMEMBER!

REMEMBER - all of you who served with them and called them comrades, who depended upon their might and aid, and relied upon them, for surely, they have not forsaken you.


by Larry H. Tassone, USAF (Ret)
Courtesy of the U.S. Air Force Academy


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