By Harry Kane
On Friday, a chair will be placed in City Hall to bring awareness to prisoners of war or service members who are missing in action. The chair dedication ceremony will take place at noontime on the first floor of City Hall next to the City Clerk’s office.
The origins of the chair memorial can be traced back to a tradition at military instillations. In the dining hall, during chow time, a table setting will be set up for those service members who are held in captivity or are unaccounted for.
The idea to put a chair in public spaces like town halls was begun by the group of Vietnam era veterans called Rolling Thunder. They feel strongly about bringing attention to the fact that so many service members have never been recovered, remain missing in action, and so many people have been held as prisoners of war in the past.
There are about 95 chapters of Rolling Thunder across United States who spread awareness about MIA service members, according to Joe D’Entremont, president of Rolling Thunder Massachusetts Chapter 1. Their mission is to establish a memorial in public locations across the Commonwealth.
Some 92,000 service members are still unaccounted for since World War I. Originally the group began by donating POW – MIA Flags. “We figured we’d take it a step up,” D’Entremont said.
There are 42 chairs in public spaces in the Commonwealth. The first chair in Massachusetts was donated to the Spinners Baseball Club at LeLacheur Stadium in Lowell in June of 2012. Some other notable locations where the commemorative chairs are sitting include Fenway Stadium, Gillette Stadium and Boston City Hall. On Friday, Somerville will receive their chair.
The black chair is accompanied by an American flag, black MIA-POW Flag, and a commemorative plaque. The plaque will read, “You are not forgotten.”
“It reminds the public of the sacrifices made by our service men and women, said Ward 5 Alderman Courtney O’Keefe, who is the chair of the Veterans’ Services Committee. “It’s a constant reminder of how blessed we are.”