The Missing Soldier Table Protocol

by Jon McPhee

A general protocol, often called the POW/MIA Table Ceremony or Remembrance Ceremony, is used on ceremonial occasions to remember those soldiers who did not return from war but whose return is still hoped for.

Symbolism of the Table

A small table represents the prisoner's frailty.

The center of the remembrance ceremony is a small, unoccupied table. Each item on the table, as well as the table itself, has symbolic meaning. Following opening remarks, a recitation of the meaning of the symbols is a part of the ceremony.

Symbols of Purity, Sacrifice and Resolve

The soldier's sacrifice is symbolized by a red rose.

The table is small, signifying a soldier's frailty against his captors. It is covered with a white tablecloth, denoting the purity of his intentions in responding to his country's call. A single red rose in a vase signifies the blood he may have shed to ensure others' freedom. A red ribbon tied around the vase signifies unyielding resolve to get an accounting of all those who have not returned.

Symbols of Sorrow and Hope

A candle signifies the desire to light the way home.

Salt sprinkled on the plate represents the tears shed for the soldier. A slice of lemon on a plate represents the bitterness of her fate. An inverted wine glass serves as a reminder that she cannot join loved ones in toasts. A single burning candle represents the light of hope and an illumination to guide the way home.

About the Author

A writer living in New Mexico, Jon McPhee began writing in 2005. McPhee holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in comparative literature from Indiana University and received his Juris Doctorate from DePaul University College of Law, where he served as a contributing editor for DePaul’s Hospital Law Newsletter.

Photo Credits

  • pow mia and us flag image by jimcox40 from