National POW-MIA Recognition Day: A look at the Missing Man Table

Sarah Daniels - 9/14/2023

September 15 marks National POW-MIA Recognition Day. The day is set aside for American's to pause and reflect on the sacrifices of service members who were Prisoners of War (POW) or Missing in Action (MIA).
One symbolic gesture of remembrance commonly displayed in military related ceremony, is the Missing Man Table. This table is a physical reminder of service members who never made it home or remain unaccounted for. This symbolism perpetuates the remembrance of fallen or missing service members, regardless of the passage of time.
The symbolism of this table is as follows:

  • An empty table draped in white resides upon entry of the event. The empty seat represents absence, because POW or MIA service members can not join us.
  • The table hosts a single red rose in a vase, representing the love of their families that keep faith in waiting for answers.
  • The red ribbon around the rose's vase  represents continued determination for account of the missing.
  • A lemon slice on an empty bread plate is a reminder of the bitter fate of those captured and missing in foreign lands.
  • A pinch of salt on the plate represents tears endured by those missing and their families left without answers.
  • There is a Bible on the table, representing strength and faith to sustain those lost from a nation formed under God
  • An inverted glass on the table symbolizes the inability for the missing to toast with the group.
Remembrance is a big part of the military and family community. American active duty, reserve personnel and veterans share a long history of connection and warfare. The powerful symbolism of The Missing Man table units generations of warriors under the same resolve of unwavering pursuit of answers, and never leaving a service member behind.

The 2023 White House proclamation on the occasion of National POW/MIA Recognition Day can be found here.



A satirical reflection by Author/Artist Phil Fehrenbacher

Phil enlisted in the Army in 1965 where you served for years in Vietnam.  He became a graphic designer and has worked for the state of Oregon for 26 years.  He retired in 2003 and started the Cartoon "In-Country".  The cartoons reflect his experiences during his tour of duty in South Vietnam.

There is a new cartoon everyday.