By Debbie Gregory.
In December, Boston’s Northeastern University unveiled an unusual tribute to honor Prisoners of War (POW) and Americans Missing in Action (MIA). The university installed a memorial, in the form of spectator seat, at their Matthews Arena. To pledge that the more than 91,000 POWs and American service members who remain unaccounted for will never be forgotten, the university dedicated the seat, to remain unoccupied, in remembrance of POWs and MIAs.
Men and women who have served in the U.S. Military hold many traditions and ideologies sacred. One of the most sacred fundamentals of all military thinking is the belief that you never leave a man behind. At all costs, military leaders attempt to bring every member serving under them either home safely, or home to receive the honors of a military funeral. When either of these options are not possible, the result is the most heartbreaking loss.
The U.S. Military honors POWs and MIAs with an esteem that in a way, is elevated above all others. The degree of respect shown to those that are unaccounted for holds a measure of ultimate loss, and a debt to the missing that remains unpaid. Military mess halls will set empty places for POWs and MIAs.
The stadium seat dedicated to POWs and MIAs at Northeastern University’s Matthews Arena is a fitting tribute that reminds its students about sacrifices made by individuals who can never be thanked. The memorial is a great idea, as it offers a subtle inclusion of remembrance to every basketball and hockey game played at Matthews Arena.
Other professional venues have previously dedicated similar memorials. In November, 2012, a chair was dedicated to POW/MIAs at Gillette Stadium, home of the NFL’s New England Patriots. And this past July 4th, Red Sox fans saw an unveiling of a POW/MIA seat at Boston’s Fenway Park. In April of last year, Boston Celtics and Bruins fans saw a seat dedicated at the TD Garden.
Hopefully, the dedication of seats to honor POWs and MIAs at sporting venues will become a popular trend among every professional and collegiate sports team. It would be nice if the seats became as common an occurrence at sporting events as the singing of the National Anthem. The gesture cannot replace the individuals who remain lost, but remembers them in a way that is fitting and natural. Although they are not with us, they will never be forgotten.