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Tyler Morning Telegraph – Published on Friday, 19 September 2014 21:33 – Written by KELLY GOOCH kgooch@tylerpaper.com

Four former World War II prisoners of war were honored Friday afternoon with a formal POW/MIA Table Ceremony.

The ceremony, presented by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7211 Ladies Auxiliary, took place in the Watkins-Logan State Veterans Home’s chapel. Honorees were Oliver “Red” Allen, Wilbur Tomlin, Robert Moore and Richard Carter.

According to a news release, the POW/MIA Table Ceremony is done during military dinners, service balls and remembrance ceremonies.

“The MIA/POW Table is an incredibly moving ceremony and carries a lot of meaning for veterans and nonveterans alike,” Jerry Patterson, chairman of the Texas Veterans Land Board, said in a news release.

Karl Little, survivor outreach services support coordinator of the Armed Forces Reserve Center, narrated as each element of the ceremony was presented.

The elements included a red rose, vase, inverted glass, ribbon, lemon slice, salt, candle, Bible and empty chair.

Little said the tablecloth is white “symbolizing the purity of their motive when answering the call of duty,” and the red rose in the vase “reminds us of the lives of people missing and the loved ones and friends … who keep the faith, awaiting answers.”

The ribbon, he said, is “a symbol of our continued determination to account for our missing,” while the lemon slice is “to remind us of the bitter fate of those captured and missing in a foreign land.”

The salt symbolizes “the tears endured by those missing and the families who seek answers,” and the Bible “represents the strength gained through faith to sustain those lost from our country, founded as one nation under God,” he said.

Little said, “The chair is empty, for they are missing,” and the candle is “reminiscent of the light of hope, which lives in the heart to illuminate their way home, away from their capturers and into the arms of a grateful nation.”

Also on Friday, the Honor Guard presented caps that represent military branches.

The former POWs also were presented with lapel pins, and their spouses and families were recognized with flowers.

Additionally, Louellen Lowe, East Texas regional director for Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn, read a letter from Cornyn, which was given to each honoree.

Ms. Lowe said she’s grateful to everyone who is involved in making an event like Friday’s possible.

“As a sister of a Marine pilot, I didn’t understand when I was young exactly what this meant. Now I do, so thank you for doing this for these heroes,” she said.

Retired Master Sgt. Ray Stanfill said he was at the event to celebrate the former POWs.

“It’s quite touching. The military has a special blood that runs through us …” he said. “I look at these people and I think, ‘I’m here because of them.’ I’m here enjoying this today.”

Allen said he was pleased to be at the event, while Tomlin said, “I think it’s a great honor. We appreciate it.”