By: James Pruitt
THE VILLAGE REPORTER
A local effort to recognize and remember the POWs and MIAs held a ceremony Sunday afternoon in Montpelier.
The event drew about 50 people, mostly veterans, came out to the Veterans Memorial Building at the Williams County Fairgrounds.
This is the third year for the event, organized by AMVETS of Bryan. The event is celebrated on the Sunday following the third Friday of the month, which is POW/MIA Day.
The ceremony featured an honor guard, Boy Scouts, vigils, a POW/MIA table and various speakers.
Montpelier Mayor Steve Yagelski issued a proclamation making Sept. 18, 2016, POW/MIA Day in the village. The proclamation spoke of the 83,000 servicemen and women listed as POW or MIA since World War II.
“We are a family (put) here to look out for each other,” Yagelski said in his remarks.
The goal of the day is to bring peace to thousands of families after years of suffering and heartbreak over the fate of their loved ones, he said. The day also recognizes the pain and “unspeakable suffering” the soldiers have gone through themselves.
“We will not be finished until we bring the last one home,” Yagelski said.
That struck a chord in light of the return of the remains of PFC Paul Tingle in 2015. The Montpelier man died in the early days of the Korean Conflict as a prisoner of the North Koreans. He was listed as missing until his remains were brought home.
It is stories like Tingle’s that Yagelski urges the schools to teach students. He wants people to help get the word out about the plight of the MIAs and POWS.
“Because they fought for our freedom, they deserve our respect,” Yagelski said. “I wish all the POWs could come home.
He urged people to talk to veterans and hear their stories. Their tales would be better than a history book, he said.
The stage featured the POW/MIA table which is a traditionof setting a separate table in honor of our prisoners of war and missing comrades has been in place since the end of the Vietnam War. The way the table is decorated is full of special symbols to help people remember those who didn’t come home.
The POW/MIA table is smaller than a regular table, symbolizing the frailty of one prisoner alone against their oppressors. The table was set with one place setting.
The white tablecloth draped over the table represents the purity of their response to the country’s call to arms.
The empty chair depicts an unknown face, representing no specific soldier, sailor, airman, or Marine, but all who are not here with us.
The table itself is round to show that our concern for them is never ending.
The Bible represents faith in a higher power and the pledge to our country, founded as one nation under God.
The black napkin stands for the emptiness these warriors have left in the hearts of their families and friends. A Purple Heart medal can be pinned to the napkin.
The single red rose reminds us of their families and loved ones. The red ribbon represents the love of our country, which inspired them to answer the nation’s call.
The yellow candle and its yellow ribbon symbolize the everlasting hope for a joyous reunion with those yet accounted for.
The slices of lemon on the bread plate remind us of their bitter fate.
The salt upon the bread plate represent the tears of their families.
The wine glass, turned upside down, reminds veterans that distinguished comrades cannot be with them to drink a toast.
Organizer Ed McNett said events like this go a long way in keeping the public’s eye on the POW/MIA situation. In addition to Tingle, he said the remains of 135 troops were brought home last year.
While veterans know the story, there must be an awareness brought to the public.
Despite many empty seats, McNett was happy with how the event went.
“I would like to see more people,” he said.
That was a sentiment shared by Rick Mettert, an Air Force veteran who was the main speaker. He said McNett and his wife were very close to his heart for their work.
“It was an excellent service,” Mettert said. “These guys did such a good job on the Table Ceremony.”
Mettert was there to talk about a soldier missing in action in Cambodia during the Vietnam War. Air Force Sgt. James Maynard went missing in 1972.
The airman was stationed in Panama City, Fla., the same base Mettert was at during his first time in the service (1975-1992). He later served from 2002-12.
“I took 10 years off to raise my son,” Mettert said. “But after they torpedoed the towers I had to fight.”
It was during that time he started wearing a bracelet for Maynard, but over time has lost the item.
Mettert served in the assault on Panama’s former dictator Manuel Noriega and later in the first Gulf War. He served in Iraq in 2005, he said.
Mettert has served in the Air National Guard as part of the honor guard and worked many funerals and other events like this where military honors were required.
James Pruitt may be reached at