PRESTON — On Saturday, Nov. 7, a group of seven Vietnam veterans gathered at the Preston Historical Society to honor those lost in that war with a Missing Man Table Ceremony. A small group of spectators sat socially distant. There was a funeral-like march as the honor guard came into the room lit only by candles.
They were solemnly holding different military hats symbolizing the different branches of service. Their perfectly shined military boots echoed in the hall. Their green fatigues were pressed. Over and over the word remember was intoned.
There was an empty table set with plates and upturned glasses symbolizing the men and women who are gone. There was also a shaker of salt to represent their tears. They set the hats down one by one at the empty table.
“They paid the price for the freedom that we all share. The KIA, killed in action. The POW died of their wounds, bodies not recovered. Before us is set a table. You may look and wonder. Let me on behalf of Chapter 648 Vietnam Veterans of America explain. The table before us is set for five representing the five branches of our armed forces: the Army; the Navy; the Marine Corps; the Air Force; and the Coast Guard. The table is our way of symbolizing those who missing from our midst,” said Roland Boggs, president of Chapter 648 of the Mid-Shore.
“The table cloth is white, representing purity their intention is to respond to their country’s call. Remember all those left on foreign soil. Remember. The slice of lemon on their plate is to remind us of their bitter fate. Remember. The salt on the plate is symbolistic of the family’s tears while they wait. Remember. Glasses are inverted, they could not toast with us today. Remember. The chairs are missing. Our brothers and sisters are not here,” he said.
Then there was silence. Filled with reverence. Sepulchral.
Recorded bag pipes pierced the hall with “Amazing Grace” loud and robust.
“On behalf of our nation whose call we answered, on behalf of Chapter 648 Vietnam Veterans of America, we dedicate ourselves once more to keep the memory alive, to become beacons waiting to welcome those home for whom yet there is no accounting,” he said.
And then the large room was filled with the sound of a recorded trumpet playing taps. Then the honor guard was dismissed, and their boots marched in sync.
The ceremony invited any veterans who served from 1955 to 1975 in the crowd to come up and receive a benediction. They were given a pin.
“The eagle represents the courage, honor and dedication to our nation. This lapel pin is a nation’s lasting commemoration and thanks,” he said.