HUNTINGTON, WV (WOWK) — A series of ceremonies with a special significance took place Friday, Sept. 17 at a local high school in Wayne County.
Friday marks the National Prisoners of War (POW) and Missing in Action (MIA) Recognition Day.
Representatives of the American Legion came to Spring Valley High School to spread awareness about those who sacrificed for our country.
A special ceremony was held for each grade at Spring Valley High School.
“Today is POW/MIA day, and it’s a day that we honor those who were taken prisoner of war and were killed in action,” says Sgt. Major Edward Walker, commander of the 5th District of the American Legion.
“We are presenting the ceremony for our youth, just so we can pay homage to those who didn’t return,” says Laura Clark, West Virginia American Legion Auxiliary chaplain.
The ceremony itself is threaded with deep symbolic meaning:
“The rose represents our love for those who have not returned; the ribbon is represented also; the candle is the light that is always lit for their return; the inverted glass is inverted because they cannot toast with us…the empty chair is their chair, it will not be sat in because they are not here to enjoy the fruits of our lifestyle; the lemon is for the bitterness that we endure because they are not here; and the salt that is on the plate represents the tears that are shed for those who have not returned. The American flag is just that, it’s a symbol of freedom and democracy,” Walker says.
Organizers of these ceremonies say it’s important to spread awareness about these topics with the students here.
“I think that this day is not just for people who have lost others, but for people who have also never had to experience it—to give that moment of silence, to give that closure to other people,” says Cassidi Bennett, cadet captain with the JROTC Timberwolf Battalion at Spring Valley High School.
“There are families out there who don’t know where families members are; who don’t know what goes on behind the scenes so I really think they deserve to know and they should know,” says Adam Jeffers, cadet lieutenant colonel with the JROTC Timberwolf Battalion at Spring Valley High School.
“It’s important that they understand the sacrifice that individuals have given that will never return, for their freedom,” Walker says.
Organizers of the ceremonies say it’s the first time they’ve presented it at Spring Valley High School, and they hope it helps spread awareness and appreciation throughout the community.