Profiles of Courage Sponsored by Rahal-Miller
As of 2013 more than 83,000 Americans are missing from World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War, the Vietnam War and the 1991 Gulf War.
Because of the c i r c ums t a n c e s and the publicity America knows more about the prisoners of war and the missing from the Vietnam action. The Hanoi Hilton became infamous as word came back to our country of the downed pilots and captured soldiers there. Many people, safe in their homes, wore bracelets with the names of the prisoners of war or the missing in action engraved upon them.
Word of hardships, of hunger, of torture and of death came back to the United States. Efforts to contact the men were made, but usually were ineffectual. Patriotic people, Ross Perot for example, spent money to assist not only the prisoners but their families but were largely unsuccessful. Shallow people looking for excitement and publicity catered to the North Vietnamese government, and made the news and earned the disgust of the American people.
When at last the prisoners were flown home, the world learned of the atrocities, of the starvation and the isolation, of the killing and the torture. Jeremiah Denton came home, and later served as a U. S. Senator. John S. McCain, son and grandson of Navy admirals, returned, maimed for life, but ready to fly again. McCain serves his country in the U. S. Congress. Pete Peterson, from here in Marianna, survived, became a U. S. Congressman and the first U. S. Ambassador to Vietnam. Others returned, but were never able to cope with ordinary life again.
And there is still the missing. At reunions of service people there is often a special table, with only one place. There is a plate, with a slice of lemon and a dash of salt on it resting on a white cloth. The water glass is empty and inverted. By it is a small vase, tied with a red ribbon and containing a single red rose. The lone plate indicates that there are still missing-in-action service men. The white cloth is for purity; the empty water glass says that they cannot drink with their comrades. The red rose reminds of the love of the missing and their families. The lemon is for the bitterness of their fate; the salt symbolizes the tears shed.
And then the servicemen present lift their water glasses in honor and in remembrance of those who have yet to return.