“Those who have long enjoyed such privileges as we enjoy forget in time that men have died to win them.”
– Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Memorial Day is often considered the unofficial beginning of summer. Parades take place, the grill is dusted off for the first time.
But actually, it is much more than that.
Memorial Day is in remembrance of soldiers who fell in combat risking their lives for their country.
It is about gratitude.
A Fallen Soldier’s Table, also known as a Missing Man Table or Fallen Comrade table, is the humble way we remember and honor the sacrifice of the men and women who gave their lives protecting our freedom.
The Fallen Soldier’s table has a few basic elements, but each display is completely unique. It starts with a small table usually set for one, symbolizing the isolation of the absent service member. Its seat is empty to bring attention to the missing guest. The table is usually set close to, or within sight of, the entrance to the dining room. For large events, the missing man table may be set for six places representing each of the five armed services (Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard), with the sixth symbolizing the civilians who died during armed conflict.
The table is round to represent the everlasting concern the survivors have for the missing.
A white tablecloth symbolizes the pure intentions of the service members, who have responded to our country’s call to arms. A single rose in a vase on top of the tablecloth reminds us of the blood that those service members have shed on our behalf. It also represents the family and friends left keeping the faith, awaiting the return of their loved ones. The red ribbon represents a love of country that inspired the service members to serve the country.
You might find a slice of lemon or some salt sprinkled on a plate at the place setting. That represents the bitter fate of the missing and the tears shed by their families back at home. The glasses are inverted, to recognize that the missing and fallen cannot partake in this meal. A lit candle symbolizes a light of hope that lives in hearts to illuminate the missing’s way home.
A Bible represents the spiritual strength and faith to sustain the lost.
As religious historian Catherine Albanese observed in 1974, after the Vietnam War there was much debate about the meaning of a soldier’s death and the reason for war. Perceptions of Memorial Day have and will continue to change.
The serious demeanor and spirit of the holiday extends beyond the last Monday in May.
Memorial Day is a federal holiday that falls on the last Monday in May. It honors all Americans who died serving our country in the United States military. In 1868, shortly after the Civil War – the “war between the states” claimed more American lives than any war in our nation’s history – John A. Logan (an American general and veterans organizer) called for a national day of remembrance. He declared May 30 as Decoration Day, and the first big observance took place at Arlington National Cemetery. The first national cemeteries emerged soon after, as Americans paid tribute to countless fallen soldiers on both sides of the conflict. They decorated the tombs with flowers, sang spiritual hymns, and recited graveside prayers. After the First World War, Decoration Day expanded to honor the dead from all American wars. It gradually became known as Memorial Day. Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act in 1968 and set Memorial Day for the last Monday in May. The observance became a federal holiday in 1971.
It should be noted that the number of people participating in the first Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery was around 5,000, which is approximately the same number attending today. On December 28, 2000, President Clinton signed the National Moment of Remembrance Act which designated 3:00 PM as a moment of silence in honor of Memorial Day.
What truly matters
we all remember,
in our own way,
the reason for a
“We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers; constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love.”1 Thessalonians 1: 2-3
hugs n’ blessings for all those empty seats around tables.
*all photos used with permission from Selena Amorar.