If you happen to find yourself at a Country Pride, Iron Skillet or another dining establishment within a TA, Petro or TA Express during a military holiday, you’ll likely see something unique – a small, fully set table, just waiting for its guest to return.
A Fallen Soldier’s Table, also known as a Missing Man Table or Fallen Comrade table, is the humble way we remember and honor the sacrifice of the men and women who gave their lives protecting our freedom.
The Fallen Soldier’s table has a few basic elements, but each display is completely unique. It starts with a small table set for one, symbolizing the isolation of the absent service member. Its seat is empty to bring attention to the missing guest. The table is usually set in the front of the restaurant, within sight of the entrance to the dining room.
A white tablecloth symbolizes the pure intentions of the service members, who have responded to our country’s call to arms. A single rose in a vase on top of the tablecloth reminds us of the blood that those service members have shed on our behalf. It also represents the family and friends left keeping the faith, awaiting the return of their loved ones.
You might find a slice of lemon or some salt sprinkled on a plate at the place setting. That represents the bitter fate of the missing and the tears shed by their families back at home. The glasses are inverted, to recognize that the missing and fallen cannot partake in this meal.
Sometimes there are head covers placed on the table, to represent the service of specific individuals. Other times restaurant staff will add a red ribbon to represent the love of country that inspires military members to serve our country every day. And of course, a lit candle symbolizes the light of hope that lives in all of our hearts, to help illuminate the way home for the missing and fallen.
The Country Pride restaurant in the TA located in Columbia, New Jersey was so moved by the Fallen Soldiers’ Table, that they now display it all year long. This is a tradition they’ve kept since the site was dedicated to Citizen Driver, Norman Knight, in 2014.
“Anyone who knows Norman knows he is very big into supporting our POW and MIA soldiers’ honor and loved ones. Norman even goes on bike rallies and helps raise money for POW” said Columbia Country Pride general manager, Hope Bianchi. “When we took our table down after Labor Day one year, Norman came to me and asked if I would put the table back up for Thanksgiving, because he was going to a rally, riding from upstate New York to the Jersey shore. He wanted to stop by our restaurant with the other veterans and show them our tribute.”
Whether you're stopping by our Country Pride in Columbia like Norman or you're at any other restaurant in the country, if you see a Fallen Soldier’s table, take a moment of silence for those service members that have lost their lives or may still be missing in action.