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Here’s How to Set a Missing Man Table


As we approach Memorial Day, some families and some businesses may create a Missing Man Table. Here’s what each part means.

A couple of years back, my workplace held a Christmas party. That year, we invited a military family in need to join us. My boss also set up something I’d never seen before: A Missing Man Table.

You may know the Missing Man Table by a different name: the Fallen Comrade Table.

You set one up using a small table with specific items that each carry special meaning. For those of us who never saw one before, when we heard the meaning of each element, we found it hard not to feel emotional by the tribute.

As we approach Memorial Day, a day set up to remember those who have paid the ultimate price while serving the nation, some people and even some businesses may feature such a presentation this weekend. I’ve seen a news release from at least one business in my area saying they will commemorate Memorial Day by featuring one.

So if you see one, here’s how to recognize it.

Setting Up a Fallen Comrade or Missing Man Table

A Missing Man Table includes 10 components, according to the War Memorial Center.

It begins with a round table. That’s the first element. It then includes a white tablecloth, a red rose, a red ribbon, a lemon slice, salt, a candle, a Bible, a glass and a chair.

Each, even the roundness of the table, carries a symbolic meaning. Here is the breakdown of each component:

  • The Round Table: Shows never-ending concern for a missing man (or woman) whether they are missing because they were killed in action, missing in action or captured.
  • The White Tablecloth: Shows the missing person’s “purity of motive” when they answered the call to serve.
  • A Single Red Rose: Symbolizes the lives of the missing and their loved ones and friends who keep the faith through their absence.
  • A Red Ribbon: Symbolizes the determination to account for the missing.
  • A Lemon Slice: Symbolizes the bitter fate of the missing.
  • A Pinch of Salt: Represents the tears shed by the missing and their loved ones.
  • A Candle: The flame of the lighted candle symbolizes hope for their return, alive or dead.
  • The Bible: Represents the faith of the missing and their loved ones and that of the founders of the country.
  • The Glass: The glass is placed upside down to represent the missing person’s inability to share a toast with those of us left behind.
  • The Chair: An empty chair is intended for the missing, one more reminder of their absence.

When you see the representation in person — and you can see a photo at the War Memorial Center website — it’s definitely moving.

Whether you see one in person or just look at the photo posted at the link above, I hope you’ll spend at least a little time over the holiday weekend reflecting on those who have paid that kind of price.

That’s the least the rest of us can do this Memorial Day.

the authorPatrick
Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.