The Missing Hero Table Story Behind The Heartbreaking Memorial Day Tradition! (1)

The “Missing Hero Table” | Story Behind The Heartbreaking Memorial Day Tradition!

In Memorial Day traditions, there is a powerful symbol known as the ‘Missing Man Table,’ also referred to as the ‘Fallen Comrade Table.‘ The tradition holds great importance in the United States Armed Forces. It honors the fallen, missing, or imprisoned soldiers with a round table, a white cloth, a single rose, a candle, a slice of lemon, and more. Each of these elements on the table adds incredible value and meaning. Let’s dive in to learn its history and what every component indicates. 

The Significance of the Missing Man Table

The Missing Man Table has a historical background that runs back to the Vietnam War. It was initially established to remember Prisoners of War (POWs) and Missing in Action (MIA) service members. Over time, this tradition has extended to include all fallen, missing, or imprisoned service members.

The Missing Man Table tradition holds great importance in military dining facilities and during ceremonial events. It serves as a tribute to the sacrifices of service members but also provides emotional support to their families and comrades. The table stands as a focal point during Memorial Day services.

Image source: My pulse news / Virginia War Memorial

Detailed Components of the Missing Man Table

Setting up the Missing Man Table is a ceremonial process, with each element on the table carrying deep symbolism. Here are the components and their meanings:

  • Small Table Set for One: Represents the isolation of the absent service member.
  • White Tablecloth: Symbolizes the pure intentions of those who served.
  • Single Rose in a Vase: Represents the bloodshed in sacrifice and the families awaiting their return.
  • Red Ribbon: Signifies the love of country.
  • Slice of Lemon: Represents the bitter fate of the missing.
  • Salt Sprinkled on the Bread Plate: Symbolizes the tears shed by waiting families.
  • Inverted Glass: Indicates that the missing and fallen cannot partake.
  • Lit Candle: A light of hope guiding them home.
  • Empty Chair: Represents their absence.

Variations and Personalization of the Table

The Missing Man Table can vary in its setup. For instance, the table can be set for five or seven, representing different service branches or including civilians who died during armed conflicts.  Using a round table often symbolizes the everlasting concern of the survivors. Private displays might include personal touches, such as a book of faith.

Public displays sometimes face challenges, especially regarding the inclusion of religious symbols like the Bible, due to First Amendment considerations.

@michaelscottdruckenmille The "Missing Hero Table" or "Missing Man Table" is a Memorial Day tradition that honors fallen, missing, or imprisoned U.S. military service members by setting an extra place and empty chair at a family table #usa #military #honorguard #fallensoldiers #fyp #memorialday #army #marines #navy #airforce ♬ original sound – Michael-Scott Drucke

How to Set Up a Missing Man Table

Setting up a Missing Man Table involves carefully selecting and placing each symbolic item. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  1. Select a Table and Its Placement: Choose a small table and place it close to the entrance of the dining room or venue.
  2. Gather and Arrange Each Symbolic Item: Ensure you have all the necessary items – a white tablecloth, a single rose in a vase, a red ribbon, a slice of lemon, salt, an inverted glass, a lit candle, and an empty chair.
  3. Conduct the Ceremonial Setup with Proper Narration: As you place each item on the table, narrate its meaning and significance to those present.
Image source: First coast news


The Missing Man Table is a powerful symbol of remembrance in military traditions. It honors the fallen, missing, and imprisoned service members, highlighting their sacrifices and providing emotional support to their families and comrades. Maintaining this tradition is crucial for honoring those who have served and ensuring their memory lives on.

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