A pair of shiny black military boots sat at the foot of the speaker’s podium and just next to it was a small, empty table to which he called his audience’s attention. There was a single chair, adorned with a black cover with the letters POW-MIA, at the table covered with a white table cloth. There were several items on the table, including a folded American flag.
Warren Holt, information specialist for American Legion Post 2505, told his attentive audience, which came out to the city hall rotunda to attend the service hosted by American Legion Post 2505, that the table “occupies a place of dignity and honor. It is set for one symbolizing the fact that members of our armed forces are missing from our ranks. They are referred to as POWs and MIAs. We call them comrades. The are unable to be with their loved ones and families, so we join together to pay humble tribute to them and to bear witness to their continued absence.”
Ward told the audience the table was small, “symbolizing the frailty of one prisoner alone against his or her suppressors.
“The table cloth is white, symbolic of the purity of their intentions to respond to their country’s call to arms,” he said.
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The American flag “reminds us that many of them may never return — and have paid the supreme sacrifice to ensure our freedom,” Ward said to the entrenched audience.
“Let us pray to the supreme commander that all of our comrades will soon be back within our ranks. Let us remember and never forget their sacrifice. May God forever watch over them and protect them and their families,” he added.
Keynote speaker Lt. Col. Joann Martin, who served more than 20 years in the United States Air Force, said she was at Operation Desert Storm, “and I thank God I have never actually shot anyone and that he brought me back to my family intact, mentally and physically.”
Martin said she didn’t reach the rank of Lt. Col. by herself. She credited “many dedicated and loyal soldiers.” She thanked those who came before her because at the time when she went into the Air Force, “the country was still big in segregation.”
“I came into a predominately man’s world as a feisty, black female with something to prove. I gave orders to men and women who were old enough to be my parents. It was very hard to fit in and prove your abilities. That is why I thank those that served before me for softening my blows. Many of my friends are great memories now. They are carried in my heart. I don’t wait for Memorial Day and Veterans Day to honor and pay tribute to my fallen family. It is done daily,” Martin said.
Martin also said 22 veterans commit suicide each day.
“That’s one veteran every 65 minutes. Veterans come in a shapes and sizes ... young, old, rich poor black and white. They are men and women who served or still serve America. Take a moment to thank them for protecting what you hold dear. Tell them you are proud of them,” she said, drawing a loud round of applause as she went to her seat.
Martin also recited “The Red, White and Blue,” a poem about unknown and fallen soldiers by Connie Moore.
Linda and Bill Mixon, of Mixon Insurance Company, were recognized by the organization for all they do to keep things going within the group. The pair cook, and help to raise money for a baseball team the organization sponsors to keep the young people engaged in positive activity. The couple was described as a backbone of the organization.
Among those in attendance at the service was St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern.
Post 2505 has a new home at 345 Missouri Avenue. Anyone who wants to make donations can do so. For more information call 618-297-4056.
The Red, White and Blue
“The Red, White and Blue” was written by Connie Moore.
He lay where he had fallen.
Enemy fire had brought him down.
He knew his life was over,
As he lost all sight and sound.
He knew a peaceful sleep,
Amidst the raging guns of war,
But for him the fight was over.
He’d gave his all and more.
Oh, he was not alone.
Others have fallen too.
And time will not erase the fact
They fell for me and you.
We owe these men and women,
For they never got any older.
We didn’t even know them.
To most of us they were unknown soldiers.
So rest in honored glory,
Each and every one of you.
You gave all you had to give
For freedom and the red, white and blue.