Roselle Park’s POW/MIA Table: A Small Table Set For One

It is the little things that matter the most, such as a small gesture of a small table in a small room in a small library in a small town.

Human nature draws our attention to grand displays and applause-evoking moments; those moments that celebrate accomplishments or achievements or victories. We feel that in taking part in those ceremonies we are honoring a part of something that lifts us up. Such salutes are held in groups – maybe to makes us feel like we are not alone.

Then there are those little things that are done to honor others and maybe make them feel that they are not alone.

In accepting a donation from Carl Hokanson and Michael Connelly – both who are current members of Roselle Park’s governing body as well as veterans – the Roselle Park Veterans Memorial Library has done that.

For those who visit the library and pass through the foyer, they might notice a small table with a simple setting on the left. It is a variation of what is known as the POW/MIA Table. It is there to remember and honor American prisoners of war (POW) and those servicemen and women missing in action (MIA). Although set for one, it was placed to remember all American military prisoners of war and those missing in action.

A small frame describes the setting and the symbolism.

  • The table is small, symbolizing the frailty of one prisoner, alone against his or her suppressors.
  • The tablecloth is white, symbolic of the purity of their intentions to respond to America’s call to arms.
  • The single rose in a vase signifies the blood they may have shed in sacrifice to ensure the freedoms of the United States of America. The rose also is there to remind everyone of the family and friends of those servicemen and women captured or missing who await their return.
  • The red ribbon on the vase represents the unyielding determination for a proper accounting of those servicemen and women who are not among us.
  • A slice of lemon on a plate is there to remind everyone of the bitter fate of those captured or missing in service to our country.
  • Salt sprinkled on the plate is symbolic of the countless fallen tears of families who wait.
  • A glass is turned upside down since those captured or missing will not be able to toast.
  • A candle is on the table to represent a light of hope which lives in all our hearts to illuminate their way home, away from their captors, to the open arms of a grateful nation.
  • The American flag reminds us that many of those captured or missing in action may never return and have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country and us.
  • The chair remains empty because those servicemen and women are not there.

We as a society – for the most part – see POW/MIA without really giving thought to the devastation behind those acronyms. It is fitting that such a powerful remembrance is in a small library partly named after veterans in a small town in America.

It is a brief moment to honor and remember those who fought for our country and were captured or were lost on whatever bit of earth turned into a battlefield and never recovered – from the Revolutionary War to the War in Afghanistan.

The Roselle Park Veterans Memorial Library is located at 404 Chestnut Street.