Rolling Thunder, Maine Chapter 2 held a Flag Raising Ceremony on Friday, September 15 at 6 p.m. at the Riverbank Park in Westbrook to formally observe POW-MIA Recognition Day.
Rolling Thunder is a national advocacy group whose mission is to bring about awareness, provide political action toward and accountability for, the Prisoners of War (POW) and Missing in Action (MIA) services members of all United States wars.
President of Maine Chapter 2, Tim DeCosta and Events Coordinator Cindy DeCosta, both of Windham, began the ceremony with a silent and honorary rising of the POW-MIA Flag, donated by the Rolling Thunder organization.
This is the first Flag Raising Ceremony Rolling Thunder, Chapter 2 has held in the Westbrook, Windham and Greater Portland Area. The purpose is to raise awareness regarding the many that have yet to be identified. “There are still 85,000 American service members who have not been returned to our country,” explained Tim DeCosta.
The ceremony also included a bell which was rung 12 times to remind all present of the major wars that have happened since 1776. Those wars are: American Revolution, War of 1812, Mexican-American War, Civil War, Spanish-American War, WWI, WWII, Cold War, Korean War, Vietnam War, Gulf War and War on Terror.
Also a part of the ceremony was, The Missing Man Table. The empty table and chair contains a place setting to honor and remember those who have yet to return. Each item on the table holds certain significance.
Cindy DeCosta shared the meanings of each item on the Missing Man Table at Friday’s ceremony.
“This table, set for one is small, symbolizing the frailty of one prisoner alone against his or her suppressors.
The table cloth is white symbolic of the purity of their intentions to respond to their Country's call to arms.
The single red rose in the vase signifies the blood they have shed to ensure the freedom of our beloved United States of America.
The rose also reminds us of the family and friends who keep the faith while awaiting their return.
The yellow ribbon on the vase represents those who demand a final accounting of our comrades who are not among us tonight.
The slice of lemon on the plate reminds us of their bitter fate.
The salt, when sprinkled onto the plate reminds us of the countless fallen tears of families as they wait.
The glass is inverted, they cannot toast with us this night.
The chair is empty, they are not here.
The candle is reminiscent of the light of hope which lives in our hearts to illuminate their way home
away from their captors and into the open arms of a grateful Nation.”
Over 20 individuals attended the Flag Raising Ceremony, including representatives from the Westbrook Police and Fire Departments. Music was provided by Kali Perry who sang “The National Anthem”, Jarred Haynes who performed “America the Beautiful” as well as a trumpet solo by Parker Lowell.
“We were very happy with the attendance, with it being our first ceremony in Westbrook,” Cindy DeCosta said. “We are pleased that Mayor Sanphy agreed to have the POW/MIA flag at the park. We are in hopes that there will be many more POW-MIA flags raised at public and private offices, parks, homes, etc. This ceremony is always very emotional for both of us [the DeCostas]. We have a close friend who was a POW during WWII and it is hard to think that he may have been one of those who never made it back.”
For those who have relatives that have not returned from war and are considered POW-MIA, action can be taken. “Everyone who has a relative that is still missing should submit their DNA to Defense POW-MIA Accounting Agency to help identify the remains that the government has in their custody,” explained Tim DeCosta. “It may help bring their loved one home to a proper burial.”
Rolling Thunder is a 501(c)(4) non-profit organization with over 90 chartered chapters in the US (with members abroad.) Maine has two chapters, Maine-Chartered Chapter 1, located in Sanford and Maine-Chartered Chapter 2, located in Windham-Greater Portland Area. For more information regarding Rolling Thunder or POW/MIA, contact President Tim DeCosta at 207-892-5333.