Every year on Nov. 11, America honors the men and women who have served our country in uniform. There are parades and special ceremonies, roundtable breakfasts and religious services. As the sister of three veterans, it has always been a time to reflect on the sacrifices of those who have served, and the families that love them.
I remember how my mother watched for the mail. She looked forward to hearing from my brother David, when he was posted at Fort Sam Houston training as an emergency medic. She checked the mailbox for postcards from John, who did a tour in North Africa. She waited anxiously for word from my oldest brother, Don Reed, who ultimately completed 288 combat missions in Vietnam. When a letter came from one of the boys, she was extra sunny — and relieved.
The letters kept coming home, and eventually, so did all three of my brothers. Many families aren’t so lucky. Today, there are tens of thousands of service members still missing in action, many from World War II, and more than 1,600 from the Vietnam War. They have not returned home to us, but they will never be forgotten.
In 2013, I met a man who was determined to honor their sacrifice. Joe D’Entremont was one of the first people to come see me in Washington, D.C., after I was elected to the U.S. Senate. I didn’t even have a real office yet. I was working temporarily out of a trailer attached to a Senate office building.
Joe, a Boston locksmith and a former president of the Massachusetts Chapter 1 of Rolling Thunder, didn’t seem to mind the setting. He spoke passionately about his idea to place a commemorative chair on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol. The chair would remain empty, a constant reminder of America’s prisoners of war and service members who remain missing.
Thanks to the efforts of Joe and Rolling Thunder, there are similar chairs in the State House, at Gillette Stadium, the Garden and Fenway Park. Similar POW/MIA chairs can be found across the country, in arenas and theaters, town halls and state houses. But the United States Capitol had no such memorial — until now.
When Joe came to me with his idea, I set out on a mission to get it done. I worked with U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch in the House and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, my Republican colleague from Florida, to introduce a bill to establish a POW/MIA Chair of Honor on the U.S. Capitol grounds.
Unlike many things in Washington these days, this project was truly a bipartisan effort. I especially want to thank Sen. Rubio for his strong leadership and support from the moment we introduced our bill in March 2015. Our work together on this memorial shows that Democrats and Republicans in Washington can still get things done.
We received crucial support from Rolling Thunder National and its Massachusetts Chapters, the National League of POW/MIA Families and the National Alliance of Families for the Return of America’s Missing Servicemen, organizations dedicated to a full accounting of the missing, and repatriation of those who died while serving abroad. Last year, that bill became law.
Today, Joe’s vision will become a reality. I’m grateful for his determination, and I’m very glad he will be in Washington to see the chair unveiled and dedicated in the Capitol’s Emancipation Hall. I’m also glad this ceremony will include leaders of both parties in Congress. Honoring our service members and veterans is one of the best ways to bring Democrats and Republicans together.
As we approach Veterans Day and honor those who have served our country, we should also pause to remember those who have yet to return home from America’s past wars — and their families, to whom we owe a debt that can never be repaid.
Every day of the year, this chair will serve as a reminder that no family should have to wonder about the fate of their loved one. It represents our solemn obligation to make every effort to account for and bring home our fallen.
Elizabeth Warren is the senior senator from Massachusetts.
Source : http://www.bostonherald.com/opinion/op_ed/2017/11/warren_a_seat_of_honor_for_powmias