I continue to be missing from this blog as of late. I thought by now (late May) that things would have evened out—that life would slow down—but crazy schedules, health issues, hospitalizations, and yes, even the joyous gift of head lice brought home from school, has been my status quo. Although I continue forth with my giving efforts, once again, something had to give, and unfortunately that something has been my writing. Thank you to all who continue to follow and patiently wait for my (more consistent) return to the blogosphere. Okay, now onto my post for today…
On Memorial Day, we pause amidst the chaos of our lives and remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of this country. We’ve all seen images of the President laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, as well as flags and flowers adorning tombstones, but today I thought I would share a couple of military traditions that may not be known to the general public, that I learned during my time in the Air Force. We use these traditions to honor those brave individuals who gave of themselves in the line of duty.
The Third Verse of the Air Force Song
Okay, so this first tradition is only an Air Force thing, but I think it is still worth sharing. You may have noticed me write the words “Here’s a toast…” on Facebook posts whenever I learn of the passing of a friend or comrade who gave his or her life in the line of duty. Those words are more than just an indication that I’m lifting my glass. At the Air Force Academy, we sing the third verse of the Air Force Song independent of the other verses to honor those who gave their lives. Here are the lyrics to the third verse of the Air Force Song:
Here’s a toast to the host
Of those who love the vastness of the sky,
To a friend we send a message of his brother men who fly.
We drink to those who gave their all of old,
Then down we roar to score the rainbow’s pot of gold.
A toast to the host of men we boast, the U.S. Air Force!
So that is the reason I write the words “Here’s a toast” to honor my fellow fallen service members.
I also do not want to forget those whose status remains unknown, and the loved ones who continue to wait, hope, and pray for their return. At every banquet. ball, or special event, members of the military set a special table (shown below) in remembrance of all Prisoners of War (POW) and those who remain Missing in Action (MIA). Below is the POW/MIA ceremony script.
As you entered the dining area, you may have noticed a table – raised to call your attention to its purpose – it is reserved to honor our missing loved ones.
Set for six, the empty places represent Americans who were or are missing from each of the five services: Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and military service civilians*, all with us in spirit.
*This means only the civilians who served with the military.
Some here were very young when the Vietnam War began; however, all Americans should never forget the brave men and women who answered our nation’s call and served the cause of freedom in a special way. Please be seated while I explain the meaning of this special table, and join me for a moment of silent prayer at the end. The table is round – to show our everlasting concern. The cloth is white – symbolizing the purity of their motives when answering the call to duty.
The single red rose reminds us of the lives of these men….and their loved ones and friends who keep the faith, while seeking answers. The red ribbon symbolizes our continued determination to account for them.
A slice of lemon reminds us of the bitter fate of those captured and missing in a foreign land. A pinch of salt symbolizes the tears of our missing and their families who long for answers after decades of uncertainty.
The Bible represents the strength gained through faith in our country, founded as one nation under God, to sustain those lost from our midst.
The glasses are inverted – to symbolize their inability to share this evening’s toast.
The chairs are empty – they are missing…………….. (silent moment)
Let us now raise our water glasses in a toast to honor America’s POW/MIA’s and to the success of our efforts to account for them.
(Optional) Taps can be sounded here after the silent toast.
The toast at the end of this ceremony is always made with water, not wine or any other beverage.
Now that we’ve taken time to remember, I want to present another opportunity to give. Here are two wonderful organizations that I hope you consider blessing in some way. One organization I’m sure you are familiar with, and another one you may not be aware of.
–>The first is the Wounded Warrior Project. From their website: “Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) serves veterans and service members who incurred a physical or mental injury, illness, or wound, co-incident to their military service on or after September 11, 2001 and their families.” This is a fantastic organization that is helping so many service members returning from the front lines, in so many ways. Check them out here!
–>Now, the next organization is not nearly as well publicized as the first, but I think it is one that will become more widely recognized in the next few years because it is growing and helping more and more families every year. It is called the Snowball Express. From their website:
OUR MISSION: Honor America’s fallen military service members who have made the ultimate sacrifice since 9/11 by humbly serving the families they left behind. Champion their children’s future success by creating opportunities for joy, friendship, and communal healing, by connecting these families to one another. We invite you to help us carry out this mission. It is a responsibility that we all share.
Basically, this organization plans a huge gathering every year, just after Thanksgiving, for the families of those who have lost a mother of father in the service of this country. They also connect families who have lost loved ones, and provide support and encouragement…as well as helping in many other ways. I LOVE this organization and I hope you consider checking out ways you can help here.
I will end this post with the words I posted on Facebook earlier today:
God Bless all my brothers and sisters in arms. It is true that as we rush around in our busy lives, we don’t always consider the sacrifices you and your families make each and every day. Today we honor and remember you. Thank you to all who continue to serve, and let us call to mind those who made the ultimate sacrifice for the rest of us. Here’s a toast…
Special Thanks to The DrillMaster for his article on the POW/MIA table found on his blog here