BANGOR, Maine — The nearly 500 Mainers who never returned from war were remembered Saturday afternoon during a brief ceremony at Bangor International Airport.
During the event, an empty chair and an accompanying display board featuring the names of Maine’s prisoners of war and military men and women declared missing in action were officially installed at the airport, once part of the former Dow Air Force Base.
The empty chair is meant to serve as a symbol of the thousands of American soldiers — including the 483 from Maine — who remain unaccounted for from all wars and conflicts involving the United States, according to Jerry Ireland, a member of the James W. Williams American Legion Post 12 and executive director of United Farmer Veterans of Maine.
Ireland said an empty chair is designated at all official legion meetings in remembrance of the missing.
“May we again dedicate our organization and ourselves to the sacred ideals, which are here represented, ever remembering that the American Legion’s service is for God and country,” he said.
The chair that was installed at the airport, however, is unique in that it features for the first time in Maine the names of each and every POW and MIA soldier from Maine, according to Ireland.
“In the name of James Williams Post 12 Department of Maine American Legion, I dedicate this chair to the memory of those who fell in service to our country. I dedicate it in the name of those who offered their lives so justice, freedom and democracy may survive to be the victorious ideals of the people of the world.
“The lives of those who have made the supreme sacrifice are glorious before us. Their deeds are an inspiration as they served America in a time of war, yielding their last moments, their last full measure of devotion,” he said.
“I dedicate this monument to them and with it, I dedicate this post to the faithful service of our country and to the preservation of the memory of those who died that liberty might live,” he said.
The stadium-style chair was donated by Hussey Seating, the company that outfitted the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor, Ireland said.
“They donated this chair to the city of Bangor to provide the American Legion Post 12 a permanent monument here in the city that recognizes all of our POWs and MIAs,” he said.
U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin delivered the keynote address.
“In our office in Washington, in the hallway, we have an American flag, we have a state of Maine flag and we have a POW-MIA flag,” Poliquin said.
“That reminds me and my staff and anybody who walks in our office or by our office that our work is not done until everybody comes home.” he said.
“This chair is a terrific tribute to that message. We have so many folks that visit our great state and so many come through Bangor and we welcome them. We want them to come and enjoy our state as we enjoy having them here.
“But as they walk this concourse, hopefully now they’ll be draw to this chair, they’ll be drawn to these names, they’ll be drawn to our flags and remember that we can never, ever leave anyone behind ever,” he said.
After his address, Poliquin presented the Bangor post a flag that has flown over the Capitol building in Washington, D.C.