La Pine ROTC spent the early morning hours lining the main street of Huntington Road with American Flags, outlining the route of the Veteran’s Day Parade. Heart ‘n Home’s La Pine office sits along the parade route and we’ve always had a table with noisemakers and small flags to wave, with signs declaring “Thank You Veterans!” in red, white, and blue. La Pine loves our Veterans! Reports share almost half of the population have served in the military.
This year, we were asked to march in the parade alongside the Band of Brothers as “Patriot Women.” We put on our best Rosie the Riveter costumes (with extra layers underneath- it is still November, after all!) and began the march around the block. I’m pretty sure most of the town was in the parade. We waved at the hundred or so people sitting bundled in blankets in the sunshine trying to stay warm. It was one of those days where if you stayed moving and stayed in the sun, the 45-degree weather was more or less tolerable. But the temperature made no difference to us as we honored our Veterans. Thinking of how they have served in all varieties of storms, it really was the least we could do.
We eventually made our way to the annual chili feed, which is a part of the Veteran’s Day Celebration of La Pine. About 250 people crammed into the Parks and Rec center to be served chili and cookies by the Band of Sisters. This year, we were honoring those missing in action. There was an empty table, with full place settings. This table is called the Missing Man Table. The MC came on the microphone and pointed out all of the ceremonial details of the table – the single rose in the vase, indicating the blood that many have shed to ensure the freedom of our beloved United States of America, and to remind us of the family and friends keeping the faith and awaiting the return of their loved ones. The white tablecloth, representing the purity of intentions to respond to their country’s call to arms. The slice of lemon on the bread plate, indicating the bitter fate of the missing. Every part of that table had a meaning.
While I ate the best chili I’d ever tasted, I had the opportunity to talk with community members and listening to their stories about their granddaughters and grandsons currently serving all over the globe. We honor Veterans at Heart ‘n Home every chance we get; but on this Veterans Day, as I watched older Veterans shed tears of painful loss, as we heard the symbolism of the Missing Man Table, and I saw photos of local Veterans from their time in the service, honoring Veterans is more personal now than ever. I’m thankful to have been invited to participate in the ceremonies and the parade. And I am thankful that the pain of the loss of the Missing Men and Women was felt in my own heart. Watch this video of one of our Veteran Volunteers as he speaks of his service and one way Heart ‘n Home honors Veterans.
La Pine and Bend Volunteer Coordinator