81,000+ Empty Chairs
POW/MIA Chair of Honor Program is intended to bring daily reminders of the POW/MIA issue to cities and towns across the nation. A POW/MIA chair in any location is to remain perpetually empty to help people remember that even though our soldiers are not here, there is still a space for them.
Rolling Thunder Inc. has been working on this worthwhile project placing POW/MIA Chairs of Honor across our country.
In New Jersey, they have had dedications at the Trenton State House, Princeton University Stadium, Rutgers University Stadium, and many townships and municipalities....
Resolution 288, adopted at the 67th American Legion National Convention, calls for designating a POW/MIA Empty Chair at all official meetings of The American Legion as a physical symbol of the thousands of American POW/MIAs still unaccounted for from all wars and conflicts involving the United States.
Joe D'Entremont, a locksmith from Boston and a member of Rolling Thunder Inc., noticed that a seat at the NASCAR track in Bristol, Tennessee, was left purposefully empty to remind people of service members who had been prisoners of war and those who are still missing. Inspired by that gesture, he was determined to make Massachusetts the first state in the nation to have POW-MIA chairs in all of its professional sports venues.
D'Entremont began his quest at Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots football team and New England Revolution soccer team. His proposal for an honor chair received enthusiastic support from Robert Kraft, the owner of both teams and the stadium. Kraft introduced D'Entremont to Hussey Seating Co., based in North Berwick, Maine, and Hussey agreed to donate a black Fusion seat. On Veterans Day 2012, Gillette Stadium became the first professional sports stadium with "one empty seat," a POW-MIA Chair of Honor.
The next target was TD Garden, the arena where the Boston Celtics basketball team and Boston Bruins hockey team play. D'Entremont secured an agreement there and reached out to Hussey again. Then on July 4, 2013, a Chair of Honor was placed in Fenway Park, home field for the Boston Red Sox baseball team.
Today POW-MIA honor chairs can be found not only in big sports stadiums but also in small-town city halls and a variety of public spaces in between. I created a plan to put honor chairs in and around Philadelphia. Now we have more than 40 of them in the Philadelphia area.
Accompanying each chair is a plaque with these words: "You are not forgotten. Since World War I, more than 92,000 American soldiers are unaccounted for. This unoccupied seat is dedicated to the memory of these brave men and women and to the sacrifices each made in serving this country. God Bless You. God Bless America."
Patrick J. Hughes is a professional photographer and combat veteran who served with Marine Air Group 12 in Vietnam, January 1967-February 1968. This article first appeared in Vietnam magazine.
It is said that there is loyalty in the simple act of remembrance. In November, the United States Congress unveiled a Chair of Honor that sits empty in the United States Capitol as a tribute to those brave men and women who, in the course of their courageous military service, have been rendered missing in action or prisoners of war.
The Chair of Honor serves as a solemn reminder of the sacrifice of more than 80,000 U.S. service members who remain classified as POW/MIA. Visitors to the U.S. Capitol, members of Congress and staff pass by the Chair and take a moment to pay their respects to the approximately 1,000 troops in Vietnam, 7,000 troops in the Korean War and 70,000 troops in World War II who have not come home. The Chair of Honor also serves as a reminder to members of Congress of the gravity of our decisions when we send our sons and daughters to war and of our enduring obligation to their families to see that they ultimately return.
In our country, the families of American service members who are POW and MIA have often suffered alone. Groups like Rolling Thunder have fiercely advocated for these families to ensure they remain at the forefront of our minds. In 2014, Joe D’Entremont, who was president of Rolling Thunder Massachusetts Chapter 1 at the time and is now a National member, met with me in Washington. We discussed the importance of honoring POWs and MIAs, particularly in the U.S. Capitol.
POW/MIA Chairs of Honor already sit in ballparks and public spaces across the country. It seemed fitting that we honor those service members who remain unaccounted for within the U.S. Capitol, a symbol of our nation’s history and enduring spirit.
I introduced the National POW/MIA Remembrance Act to authorize the placement of a POW/MIA Chair of Honor in the U.S. Capitol, and my colleague Sen. Elizabeth Warren introduced a companion bill in the Senate. In April of 2016, President Barack Obama signed the bill into law.
Members of Rolling Thunder have worked hard to promote government accountability for American POWs and MIAs. Joe, along with Gus Dante, another member of Rolling Thunder National, have been leaders in advocating for the placement of POW/MIA Chairs of Honor across the country and were instrumental in helping us place the Chair in the Capitol. I admire their loyalty and dedication to honoring these brave men and women.
The Chair of Honor was also supported by the National League of POW/MIA Families, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, the Military Officers Association of America, and the Vietnam Veterans of America. It is a testament to the American spirit that so many organizations continue to fight to keep the memory of our brave service members alive.
As members of Rolling Thunder make their way into Washington, D.C., I hope they will have a chance to see the new Chair of Honor, a product of their dedication to those who have served our nation courageously and honorably.
• Democrat Rep. Stephen F. Lynch represents the 8th Congressional District in Massachusetts. He has served in Congress since 2001 and is the Ranking Member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security and also serves on the House Committee on Financial Services.
Artie Muller, Gus Dante
WASHINGTON, D.C. Leaders of the U.S. House and Senate will dedicate a commemorative chair in honor of American prisoners of war (POW) and the nearly 83,000 servicemen and women missing in action (MIA).
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) will take part in the bipartisan, bicameral ceremony. The ceremony will begin at 3:00 p.m. in Emancipation Hall and will be live-streamed above.
Commemorative chairs have been unveiled throughout the country to serve as a reminder of America’s servicemen and women held prisoner or missing in action. In accordance with Public Law 114-147, the National POW/MIA Remembrance Act, the chair dedicated on November 8 will be placed in Emancipation Hall of the United States Capitol Visitor Center.