The residents of The Wellington Assisted Living home got to relive a bit of former glory in a special ceremony Wednesday afternoon to honor the veterans present and the prisoners of war, or POWs, and those missing in action, or MIAs, who are not.
In the center of the front of the common room of The Wellington sat a small table. It was covered in a sheet of white and set for one.
But this table was not just any table, it represented those who can’t be with loved ones anymore, and haven’t been able to for some time.
“Those who have served and those who are currently serving in the uniformed services of the United States are ever-mindful that the sweetness of enduring peace has always been tainted by the bitterness of personal sacrifice,” said Richard Reuer, the chaplain for American Legion Post 26, directing attention to the table.
“We are compelled to never forget, that while we enjoy our daily pleasures there are others who have endured and may still be enduring the agonies of pain, disposition, and imprisonment.”
He noted aspects of the table and how they are arranged to remind us of them.
The table is small, which symbolizes the frailty of a single prisoner. The tablecloth is white, symbolizing purity. The single red rose symbolizes blood they shed in sacrifice. A slice of lemon on the plate is their bitter fate, while a dash of salt are the tears shed by loved ones. The glass is overturned as they cannot toast, and the chair is empty because they are not here.
There was prayer thankful of sacrifices and celebrating perseverance and the determination of those in uniform.
And then Dean Verstraete, honor guard captain of American Legion Post 26, collected “unserviceable” flags from the 11 people seated in front, the veterans among us or their spouses.
The flags were taken, one by one, with a salute, to be burned in the pit just outside the door. They were first doused in flammable liquid, and the smell wafted inside the open door.
But the event was not solemn, as it ended with an impromtu Wellington-wide singalong of “God Bless America.”
And then “Taps” was played on trumpet by the post commander, Millo Wallace, before each person present was given a piece cut from one of the flags.