There’s a table, flanked by flags and illuminated in the evening darkness. It is set with a rose in a vase, symbolizing the lives of those people who are missing, a lemon to represent their bitter fate, and salt, the tears of those they have left behind.

“It is round, a symbol of our everlasting concern for our men and women still missing,” says Bill Nash, commander of American Legion Post 200 in Hampstead. “The chair is empty, for they are not here.”


After he explains the symbolism of each item on the table — the candle that is reminiscent of hope, the inverted glass symbolizing the drink or toast of which some cannot partake — Nash asks all those gathered to “remember.”

And a bell is struck, and candles lit.

This is the table ceremony, and part of the annual POW/MIA Recognition Day event, observed the third Friday in September, the seventh hosted by Post 200, though the lone table is not restricted to such ceremonial occasions.

“It’s at every VFW, American Legion,” said Elinore Frush, historian for the Post 200 Auxiliary. “You will walk in there and in some corner you will see a set up similar to that.”

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On Friday, however, the table was at the head of an outdoor pavilion at the post, the rows filled with people holding candles, as Frush and others read the stories of POWs, and asked everyone present to remember them.

POWs such as World War II veteran Louis Zamperini, whose story as a POW is told in the 2010 book “Unbroken” by Lauren Hillenbrand, later turned into a film in 2014.

Or Eric Otto Kamins, of Frizzellburg, a United States Merchant Marine, held prisoner for three and a half years by Imperial Japan near Nagasaki during WWII.

Or the late Sen. John McCain, who was held prisoner and tortured for years by the North Vietnamese during the Vietnam war.

“When you look out into the audience, you can see the glisten in their eyes,” Nash said. “People really are taking it to heart. It’s a moving service.”

Nash estimated around 140 people attended the ceremony, including those participating, the largest turnout the post has had for the event.

“I would say that probably two-thirds of the people in the audience are not members of the Legion, they are members of the community,” he said.

Some had even traveled just to be there Friday night, people like Heather Sater, who grew up in Hampstead, but now lives in Baltimore.

“My dad was a Vietnam veteran. He passed away in 2015. We’re still members of the Disabled American Veterans Auxiliary, which he was a proud member of the DAV, the American Legion, the VFW, all of them,” she said. “He was very active and so we try to keep up his legacy and what he would want us to be doing and support the veterans community.”

That’s what the legion will be doing, Nash said, and he invites the community to join them.


“I would like to encourage them to make next year’s service,” he said.