Lemon Grove’s VFW Post commemorates National POW/MIA Recognition Day

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September arrives with early fall remembrances of military veterans and others who have served, sacrificed and suffered in defending their fellow citizens in this country. On Sept. 11 during these 16 years since 2001, Patriot Day has been commemorated as the National Day of Service and Remembrance to honor and remember those who perished from the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and those who answered the call to rescue and recover victims of those assaults.

September arrives with early fall remembrances of military veterans and others who have served, sacrificed and suffered in defending their fellow citizens in this country. On Sept. 11 during these 16 years since 2001, Patriot Day has been commemorated as the National Day of Service and Remembrance to honor and remember those who perished from the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and those who answered the call to rescue and recover victims of those assaults.

Only days later, the National POW/MIA Recognition Day is usually commemorated throughout the U.S. on the third Friday of each September, recalling those incarcerated as prisoners of war and those still unrecovered as mission in action. Lemon Grove’s Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1512 hosted its 10th Annual POW-MIA Ceremony on Sept. 16, in conjunction with the area VFW’s District 1. The color guard was supplied by the Scottish American Military Society Post 1861, whose members were in tartans and kilts.

The simple, moving midday ceremony included presentations from a former childhood prisoner of war and from a former World War II prisoner who had been in captivity in a German POW camp. Ralph Kling recounted his experiences, from parachuting into Germany with his face burning, through capture and subsequent medical treatment that alleviated his pain. The German air force, called the Luftwaffe, was the military arm of the Nazi government that ran the prison camps. Kling was imprisoned in Stalag Luft III in Sagan, Germany.

Kling described the level of support that POWs received from the home front. Families mailed musical instruments and art supplies from home. The American Red Cross sent weekly parcels. One memorable item in those packages was the chocolate D bar. Kling said that those supposed sweet treats were “hard enough to pound nails,” so that they became the money-equivalent rate of exchange among POWs. The prisoners looked for tunnels that might permit escape. As the war in the European theater was winding down, Kling and one of his comrades found themselves able to hop the fence and return to fly again briefly against enemy forces.

The last formal portion of ceremony observances was setting of the POW/MIA table, according to VFW customs. The verbal script further acknowledges the ongoing suffering of the families of those lost and those not yet accounted for. The “rich in tradition” ceremony begins with representatives bringing caps and military cover placed around the table to remember the branches of U.S. military service — Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, and serving American civilians. The table setting includes a candle encircled with a yellow ribbon, a red rose tied with a red ribbon, a black napkin, a lemon slice and salt on the plate, an inverted wineglass, faded picture and a tilted chair leaning against the table. The symbolism denotes the bitterness of loss, tears and memories, as those still missing remain to be found and returned to their waiting loved ones.

After a benediction concluding the ceremony, members of the post provided a light buffet luncheon for attendees. VFW Post 1512 is located at 6873 Lemon Grove Boulevard. More information about the post can be acquired by phoning (619) 278-1512.

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