Honoring those who lost their lives in service to their country

Published 11:00 pm Friday, May 24, 2013

Bob McLendon sets a remembrance table in honor of the men and women who gave their lives for their country.

Bob McLendon sets a remembrance table in honor of the men and women who gave their lives for their country.

Bob McLendon set the table for Memorial Day.

A small table with only one chair.

“It’s a remembrance table,” McLendon said, as he lit a lone, white candle. “Memorial Day is different from Veterans Day. On Veterans Day, we honor all veterans. On Memorial Day, we pause to remember those who lost their lives in service to their country. Memorial Day is a much more solemn occasion.”

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Setting a Memorial Day Remembrance Table is not a widely practiced tradition. In fact, probably not many Remembrance Tables will be set on Monday. Perhaps, in the homes of families that have lost a loved one in recent times of war or conflict and, maybe, in some facilities where veterans organizations or housed.

But McLendon sets the table at the Conecuh River Military Museum that he owns and operates on the grounds of the Pioneer Museum of Alabama.

“In remembrance of those who gave their all,” he said.

The idea for the Remembrance Table began with members of the United States Air Force.

“The idea was to commemorate pilots who were shot down and captured in Vietnam,” McLendon said. “It was soon expanded to include all members of our military who were killed in action, missing in action or prisoners of war.

“The Remembrance Table is a place of honor and is it set for one because it symbolizes that members of our military are missing from our midst.

“The tablecloth is white, symbolizing the purity of a their intentions to respond to their country’s call to arms.”

A single red rose is displayed in a vase as a reminder of the families and loved ones of missing patriots who keep the faith while awaiting the return of those missing.

The Holy Bible represents faith in a higher power and the pledge to the United States of America, which was founded a “one nation under God.”

“The black napkin represents the emptiness these warriors have left in the hearts of their families and friends,” McLendon said. “The white candle, when lit, symbolizes the upward reach of the unconquerable spirit of our warriors.

“The yellow ribbon symbolizes the everlasting hope for a joyous reunion with those yet unaccounted for.”

The slice of lemon on the plate is a reminder of the bitter fate of those killed or missing in action and those who are prisoners of war. There is salt on the plate as a symbol of the tears of their families.

“The glass is inverted because the brave and honored men and women cannot be with us to drink a toast to country with the family,” McLendon said. “The chair is empty because they are not there.

“For all of those who, for whatever reason, did not come home, we should remember them, not just on Memorial Day but every day are the true heroes of their generations.

They are the reason that we live in the best country on earth, ‘in the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday on the last Monday of May and was formerly known as Decoration Day, which originated after the War Between the States to commemorate the Confederate soldiers who died in the war.

By the 20th century, Memorial Day has been extended to honor all Americans who have died in military service.