Set Up Your Own White Table

In N is for Never Forget: POW-MIA A to Z, author Nancy Polette writes about the White Table, a special way to remember service members who are deceased, missing, or held captive. You can set up your own White Table with your family at home to remember these sacrifices.

You will need:

  • Small table, round if you have one
  • White cloth big enough to cover the table top
  • One dinner plate and one smaller plate
  • One silverware setting
  • Napkin, dark colored if you have one
  • Drinking glass
  • Lemon slice
  • Salt
  • Red rose in a vase
  • Red or yellow ribbon
  • Candle and candle holder, any size
  • A Bible or book of scripture, if you wish
  • American flag, if you wish
  • An empty chair

Look at the Y (Yellow Ribbon) page in N is for Never Forget for an example of how you might place the items on the table. If you don’t have the exact items, it’s okay to use what you have. Each item on your White Table should have special meaning to you, to help you think about and remember the sacrifices of prisoners of war and those missing in action. Here are a few common symbolic meanings of the items we’ve suggested and one way to set your table:

A round table represents our never-ending concern for service members who are missing or held captive.

Spread the white cloth on the table. The white tablecloth represents purity of heart as a service member responds to the call of service to our country.

Tie your ribbon around the vase, and put the rose in it. A red or yellow ribbon signifies love for one’s country and the hope that all service members will someday return home. The red rose is a reminder of the blood shed by fallen heroes.

Set the table with one setting of plates, silverware, and napkin. The one place setting represents each individual service member who is deceased, missing, or held captive, and being remembered at the table. A dark colored napkin symbolizes the sorrow of captivity.

Put the drinking glass upside down at the top right of the dinner plate. This represents the fact that those who are missing or fallen cannot be present to share the meal.

Put the lemon slice on the smaller plate, and sprinkle salt on that plate. The lemon reminds us of their bitter fate. The salt represents tears shed by their families as they wait for their return.

Add the candle. Ask an adult to help you light it (never leave the lighted candle unattended). A lit candle represents peace.

Add the Bible, if you wish, and the flag. These represent faith in God and a pledge to our country, as one nation under God.

Leave the chair empty, representing room in our hearts for all service members who are not here to join the meal.