The chairs next to the round table, covered in a white tablecloth, sat empty in Denver Water’s cafeteria.
On the table was a single red rose in a vase. A plate held a lemon slices and salt. Six military caps lined the table’s edge.
At a ceremony to honor the fallen and celebrate Memorial Day, Patrick McCoy, who works in Denver Water’s Information Technology division and also manages the utility’s Veterans Network, explained the significance of the items on what’s known as the “missing man” table.
The table is a military tradition that dates to the era of the Vietnam War.
“The empty places at the table represent the missing from each of the services: U.S. Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard and our allied forces,” he said.
The round table symbolizes are everlasting concern for our fallen heroes.
The white tablecloth symbolizes the purity of the motives of the missing service members who answered the call to duty.
The single flower in the vase reminds us of their life.
The slice of lemon on the plate reminds us of their bitter end.
The pinch of salt symbolizes the tears we shed for them, and the inverted glass symbolizes their inability to be here with us.
And the empty chairs remind us of who we have lost.
McCoy grew up in an Army family in a Navy town with a Marine dad. McCoy served in the Air Force during the Desert Storm era from 1989 to 1994.
“All Americans should never forget the brave men and women who answered our nation’s call to service and served the cause of freedom. This honor ceremony symbolizes that they are with us. That they are here in spirit,” McCoy said.