Rolling Thunder ceremony will honor POWs, MIAs

Jun. 28, 2013 @ 08:44 AM

A local chapter of the national Rolling Thunder organization wants to ensure that America’s POWs and MIAs — and one POW, in particular — are not forgotten.
North Carolina Chapter 6 of the nonprofit organization will present a table ceremony this weekend as a public reminder about the plight of POWs and MIAs, and the importance of continuing to work to bring them home.
“A table ceremony is a symbol of honor and respect we give to those who are still missing in action,” said Jerry Wilson of Randleman, who serves on the board of the Rolling Thunder chapter.
The ceremony will be presented at 10:30 a.m. Sunday, during the morning worship services at Rushwood Park Wesleyan Church in Asheboro, where Wilson is a member.
Sunday’s ceremony coincidentally falls on the fourth anniversary of the capture of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was taken hostage by the Taliban while he was deployed in Afghanistan. The ceremony, therefore, will specifically call attention to Bergdahl’s captivity.
“We cannot allow this to become a silent issue,” Wilson said in a statement.
“We mourn the loss of those who died in service to this great nation and are grateful for their sacrifice. Bowe’s sacrifice is a continual one, as is that of his parents and other family members.”
This marks the second year the church has hosted a table ceremony, according to the Rev. Brent Tysinger, lead pastor.
“It’s a fairly simple ceremony, but it’s very moving and honoring of the people that have made that sacrifice,” Tysinger said.
During the ceremony, the stories of several POWs and/or MIAs — one for each branch of the military — will be read, and a hat representing each one’s branch placed at a table setting.
The table features a white tablecloth, symbolizing the purity of the POW or MIA’s intentions to respond to his country’s call to arms; a single red rose in a vase, a reminder of families and loved ones who await his return; a red ribbon on the vase, reminiscent of the red ribbon worn by those who demand a proper accounting of missing soldiers; a lit candle, symbolizing the upward reach of his Unconquerable spirit; a slice of lemon on a bread plate, a reminder of his bitter fate; salt on the bread plate, symbolic of the families’ tears as they wait; an inverted glass, emblematic of the fact that he cannot toast with his comrades; and an empty chair, to reflect his absence.
The ceremony ends with a parting salute to the unoccupied table.
In addition to the table ceremony, the Rolling Thunder chapter will present the church with a POW flag, which will fly alongside the church’s American flag, according to Tysinger.
The ceremony coincides with Tysinger’s sermon series on American heroes, in which he incorporates the stories of such patriots as George Washington, Nathan Hale, George Washington Carver and Todd Beamer.
Wilson, who served in the Marine Corps for six years, said the table ceremony helps Rolling Thunder fulfill its primary mission.
“We want to educate the public to the fact that there are still prisoners of war, and there are those who are still missing in action,” he said. “The bodies have not been recovered. And that’s what our purpose is, to educate the public that this is still going on and there are still things to be done.”

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North Carolina Chapter 6 of Rolling Thunder will present a table ceremony at 10:30 a.m. Sunday, during the morning worship services at Rushwood Park Wesleyan Church, 1810 Old Farmer Road, Asheboro.
The chapter will also present a POW flag to be flown at the church.