It was the fifth year local veterans and families paused to pay homage to the more than 83,000 Americans missing from World War II, Korean War, Cold War, Vietnam War and 1991 Gulf War.
According to the Defense Prisoner of War Missing Personnel Office, 73,681 are unaccounted for from World War II; 7,946 from the Korean War; Cold War, 126; Vietnam War, 1,655; and six from Iraq and other conflicts.
Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland explained the table was positioned in a place of honor symbolizing members of the profession of arms are missing.
The tablecloth is white, symbolizing the purity of their intentions to respond to their country's call to arms so their children could remain free.
The black ribbon on the candle is a reminder of those who will not be coming home. The single rose is a reminder of the loved ones and families of comrades in arms who keep the faith and await their return.
A slice of lemon on the bread plate is a reminder of their bitter fate. There is salt on the plate, symbolic of the family's tears as they wait and remember. The glasses are inverted because the missing men and women cannot toast — but maybe tomorrow.
“The chair is empty because they are not here,” he continued.
A red, white and blue ribbon was tied to the flower vase by yellow ribbon worn by thousands who awaited their return, and a faded picture on the table is a reminder they are deeply missed and remembered by their families.
“As we look upon this empty table, do not remember ghosts from the past, but remember our comrades. Remember those whom we depended on in battle. They depend on us to bring them home,” he said. “Remember our friends. They are the ones we love — who love life and freedom as we do. They will remember what we do. Please pray for them, honor them, and remember them.”
American Legion Post 81 Chaplain Oscar Kelly asked God to remember the men and women who are unaccounted.
“We pray father that one day, somehow, they will all return back to us, back to this land from which they came. Amen,” he said.
The first official commemoration of POW/MIAs was in 1979. The observance is one of six days of the year Congress mandated flying the POW/MIA flag at major military installations, national cemeteries, all Post Offices, VA medical facilities, the World War II Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, offices of the secretaries of State, Defense and Veterans Affairs; the director of the Selective Service System and the White House.