First Sergeant's Council Dedicates Table to Prisoners of War, Those Missing in Action

  • Published
  • By Capt. Andrew Schmidt and Staff Sgt. Sherree Grebenstein
  • 167 Airlift Wing
Observing a moment of silence Saturday morning in the base's dining facility, Airmen with the 167th Airlift Wing remembered those in the military who may be gone, but will never be forgotten. 

Just inside the dining room is a small round table set for one with an empty chair. 

But the place of honor is yet to be filled. There is hope, however, that some day  it will be. The popular tradition of displaying a POW/ MIA Table is observed by
many units across the military branches. 

And on Saturday the 167th Airlift Wing's POW/ MIA Table was dedicated as 100 of the unit's members looked on. The American flag and black and white POW*MIA flag which reads "You are not forgotten" offset the table which sits beneath both. 

The table is an integral part of the POW/MIA ceremony that is used in conjunction with dining in/dining out events, but it also acts as a daily reminder of those brothers in arms who made the final sacrifice for the their country as well as those who never came back at all. 

The event and table was sponsored by the 167th First Sergeants' Council, headed by Senior Master Sgt. John Umphrey. Sgt. Umphrey was inspired to push for the creation
of the table when he saw it at the First Sergeant Academy. 

"We have the Minuteman statue, and we have the F-86 static display, and the First Sergeants' Council wanted to add to this tradition in our own way," he said. 

"It speaks to the patriotism on base and in our community. You see so many POW/MIA flags in our area," he said. 

The event was made even more appropriate by the discovery last week of two soldiers in Iraq who had been missing in action for more than a year. The bodies of Army Pvt. Byron W. Fouty, 19, and Army Sgt. Alex Jimenez, 25, were discovered along with some of their personal effects. Fouty, Jimenez and another soldier, all from the Fort Drum, N.Y.-based 10th Mountain Division, disappeared May 12, 2007, after being ambushed in an area outside of Baghdad. 

Command Chief Master Sgt. John Alderton said the placement of the POW/MIA Table "goes back to the military heritage and the great enlistment force that wants to carry on
the military heritage and tradition." 

"I applaud the first sergeants council for taking the initiative and working to get the
display," he said. 

Chief Alderton encourages all members of the 167th Airlift Wing to stop by and visit it. 

Although various versions of the POW/MIA Table exist, the one presented in the
base's dining facility shows a small round table set for one which symbolizes the frailty of one prisoner against his oppressors. 

The white table cloth symbolizes the purity of a service member's intentions to respond to their country's call to arms. A single rose displayed in a vase reminds of the families and loved ones of our comrades in arms who keep faith awaiting their return. 

"The vase is tied with a yellow ribbon. A symbol of our continued determination to account for our missing," reads a framed poster explaining the importance of each item on display. The slice of lemon on the bread plate reminds of their bitter fate with a shaker of salt symbolic of the family's tears as they wait. 

The inverted glass represents that the military member who cannot toast with his fellow military members. The chair is empty because a fellow military member is not here. 

Going back to the Air Force's 1947 founding, 1,545 Air Force service members are still considered unaccounted for. According to the Air Force Personnel Center website, the
breakdown per conflict is as follows: Korean War - 910; Cold War - 57; Southeast Asia - 577; Libyan Raid - 1. 

Also according to the site: "One hundred one Air Force identifications were made between 2000 -2007. The search for U.S. Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines continues every day."