Remembering Our Heroes

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CULLMAN – East Elementary School held their Veterans Day program on last Thursday for students, faculty, staff, parents and community members to attend with an especially moving presentation called the White Table Ceremony. Cullman County 4-H Agent Assistant, Mrs. Raydonna Sims, narrated the presentation while East Elementary 4th and 5th grade 4-H students set the table to symbolize the absence of soldiers from every branch including those that have passed away and those that are missing in action.

Sims said, “The way I found out about this ceremony was when I attended a teacher workshop this summer and we toured the American village down in Montevallo, and went through the ceremony. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the whole place. We had never seen it done.” Sims said she knew she had to take it back to the schools.

While Sims narrated, the students placed items on the table. The tablecloth is white, which symbolizes the purity of the motives of soldiers when they answer the call of duty. An American flag is then placed on the table to represent our country and the freedom for which it stands. A candle is carefully added and lit to remember that the light of America will always be the light in a world of darkness. A Bible is then placed next to the flag to represent the strength gained through faith which sustained those lost from our country; founded as one nation under God. A circular white plate is placed on the table to show everlasting concern for our missing soldiers. A vase tied with a yellow ribbon is placed as a symbol of our continued determination to account for our missing soldiers until they all return home. A single white rose is placed in the vase to represent those soldiers who never returned and gave the ultimate sacrifice – their lives. A single red rose is added to represent those soldiers who suffered injury, shed blood and died for our freedom. For the soldiers missing in action, a single yellow rose is placed alongside the white and red roses.

Sims informed everyone that there are nearly 37,000 soldiers still missing in action. 30,314 are from WWII. 4,759 are from the Korean War. 1,643 are from the Vietnam War. Four are from the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. As the presentation continues, a black napkin is placed next to the plate to symbolize the deep sorrow felt by family, friends and comrades of those soldiers who never returned. Next, a handful of salt is sprinkled in the plate to represent the many tears shed by those missing in action and the tears shed by their family and friends – those who still seek answers. A slice of lemon is then placed on the rim of the plate to remind us of the bitter fate of those who were captured, missing in action or killed in a foreign land. The inverted glass symbolizes the inability of the soldiers to be present and share the meal. Finally, an empty chair is leaned against the table to represent the absence of the soldiers including those missing in action and those who never returned from the war.

Sims said, “This is important. I thought if the students could participate in it, they could get the gist of it and they could see it.” Sims explained that the 4th and 5th grade age is when students begin understanding the importance of veterans. “That’s why I introduced it to my schools,” she said.

The following 4-H students had the privilege of helping with the ceremony. Fourth grade student, Paxton Ponder, said, “I think it was cool that all the veterans came and that we got to see them.”

Anna Beth Maudlin also enjoyed the ceremony. She said, “I liked when we put all the stuff on the table.” She thought it was cool because it represented all the soldiers who could not come to the Veterans Day program.

Harper Lafon also played an important role in the White Table Ceremony. “I got to add the Bible and the chair to the table,” she said. Harper really liked seeing all the veterans smiling and enjoying it. She could tell that the ceremony meant a lot to them.

Lillian Willoughby’s favorite part of the program was when she got to sing all the songs to the veterans. She likes to know that they feel appreciated. “I liked it when they would call out their names,” she said. She enjoyed seeing each veteran stand up as their name was announced.

Kenli Myers, whose pawpaw is a veteran, helped with the White Table Ceremony as well. She enjoyed showing honor to the veterans.

Adyson Bauer said, “My favorite part was probably the White Table Ceremony because we’ve never done it. I think most of the veterans here have been here before and they enjoyed it because you could see that everyone was paying attention through the whole thing.”

Drew Conway said the best part was holding the rose. “The rose I held was meant for everybody that died in service. I saw a few guys had tears in their eyes when I put the flower in there,” he said.

Sims is looking forward to continuing the White Table Ceremony at future Veterans Day programs.