Friday was POW/MIA Recognition Day, when the nation remembers military service members who were imprisoned by the enemy, and also honors members of the military who disappeared during conflict, never returning home.
Local veterans organizations, such as Farmington VFW Post #5896, held somber ceremonies on Friday and Saturday to honor American prisoners of war and those missing in combat. More than 80,000 American service personnel are still listed as missing in action during previous conflicts. St. Francois County has one official Missing in Action member of the military, Reginald Cleve.
Warrant Officer, First Class Reginald Cleve was born Aug. 2, 1947. The Farmington native and resident was a member of the 176th Aviation Company, 14th Aviation Battalion, 16th Aviation Group, 23rd Infantry Division (Americal). On March 22, 1971, during the battle Operation Lam son 719 to destroy North Vietnamese supply lines on the famous Ho Chi Minh Trail, he was the aircraft commander of a Bell Iroquois Utility Helicopter (UH-1H) on a high-risk emergency resupply mission flying at 5,000 feet over Savannakhet Province, Laos when the aircraft was hit by ground fire, crashed and burned.
Cleve’s remains were not able to be recovered due to the location and heavy ground fire. His name is inscribed on the Courts of the Missing at the Honolulu Memorial in Hawaii. His name is also listed on the Vietnam Wall Memorial.
The POW/MIA ceremonies typically consist of describing the “Missing Man Table,” a table set to symbolize these heroes lost in foreign lands. A script describes each item set on the table:
“The table is round — to show our everlasting concern. The cloth is white — symbolizing the purity of their motives when answering the call to serve.
“The single red rose reminds us of the lives of these Americans….and their loved ones and friends who keep the faith, while seeking answers.
“The yellow ribbon symbolizes our continuing uncertainty, the hope for their return, and our determination to account for them.
“A slice of lemon reminds us of their bitter fate, captured and missing in a foreign land.
“A pinch of salt symbolizes the tears of our missing and their families – who long for answers after decades of uncertainty.
“The lighted candle reflects our hope for their return — alive or dead.
“The Bible represents the strength gained through faith, to sustain us and those lost from our country, founded as one Nation under God.
“The glass is inverted — symbolizing their inability to share a toast.
“The chair is empty — they are missing.”
Information for this article was provided by Chris Morris, commander of the Norman L. Rigdon VFW Post #5896, Farmington and www.pow-miafamilies.org.
Mark Marberry is a reporter for the Farmington Press and Daily Journal. He can be reached at 573-518-3629, or at email@example.com