June 13, 2022

The Story of Our Chair

  It was a cold Sunday in February, and little did I know I was going to see something that was so heartfelt, I was going to have to find a way to get it for our American Legion Post. I was headed to an American Legion Auxiliary meeting in Moscow, PA. As a District President, it is an exhilarating feeling to be asked to attend a meeting, and before I went to this meeting, I went for breakfast at a restaurant called “The Mess Hall.” What a place this is to see! Everywhere you look there is something military related. As owner Kelly Borelli told me, “I do this for my father, a Vietnam Veteran, and all veterans.” As I was leaving, in a corner, I spotted this chair. I asked her what it signified, and she said, “You haven’t heard of this?” When I replied that I hadn’t, she explained to me that it was a POW-MIA Chair of Honor, and it meant there would always be a seat there at The Mess Hall for any POW-MIA. It is promoted by the Rolling Thunder.

I knew right then and there I had to get a Chair of Honor for our Post, and when I asked her how to go about doing it, she gave me her number, and I told her I would call her the next day. I called her first thing in the morning, and she gave me the names of Hussey-Seating, where we could acquire the chair, and Patrick J. Hughes, the National Photographer in the Rolling Thunder, and a Vietnam Veteran. I went on the website to Hussey Seating and emailed them a story of three of our own members who were POWs in World War II, impatiently and excitedly waiting for them to get back in touch with me. I then went on Patrick J Hughes’s website and entered all the information needed. Within five minutes he called me, and we spoke for quite a while about how to get this chair. Patrick even sent me a sample ceremony for the dedication and advised me on what to add to the ceremony. He also gave me dates that he was available to attend the dedication.

Once I got that set, I spoke with Ron from Hussey Seating and ordered the chair for our Post. He explained to me that the Chair was $200, and shipping was $200, but that if we would advertise, they waive the cost of the chair and only ask that we pay shipping. I told the Auxiliary members all the information, they were so excited to get this Chair of Honor and dedicate to our Legion Post and our Veterans. The members stated that this is the least we could do for our veterans, they gave up so much for us. After four weeks, the chair was delivered– what a relief this was really going to happen! In the meantime, Patrick Hughes and I kept in touch weekly, he mentioned his friend, Ralph Galati, a POW from Vietnam. Patrick gave me Ralph’s information to see if he would like to attend our event and speak. I contacted him, he responded absolutely. It was all coming together.

Now, we needed to get everything together for the chair. We needed to get a platform built, and we decided to carpet the platform. We, the Auxiliary, asked our Commander where we could put the chair, so we searched our post and found the perfect spot, right next to the POW-MIA Table. The Auxiliary purchased a plaque, stanchion posts, velvet ropes, new flag stands and flags—both a United States of America flag and a POW-MIA flag. The Commander and I worked together to get the people needed to participate in the ceremony. I added the roll call of the missing to the ceremony to make our dedication even more meaningful. We had the local newspapers there and we were lucky enough to have a news crew there from WBRE. This was really going to be a big deal for our POW-MIAs, for our Post to have this Chair.

Unfortunately, COVID-19, still has a hold on us, the day before the ceremony, Ralph Galati, called and told me the bad news that he has been struck with COVID-19. He sent his speech and asked if someone would read his speech, we complied and had our adjutant read his speech. It was so touching. He explained about the POW-MIAs, he mentioned how The Pledge of Allegiance, our National Anthem, the song God Bless America, and Church Services were forbidden to be discussed or performed, but those are the things that mattered most to the POWs, and regardless of the punishment or consequences, they proudly recited them. He mentioned as captives, their new mission was to resist the enemy to every extent possible, and they couldn’t give up because their fellow comrades were fighting for them and searching for them,

he then explained how he felt about the Chair of Honor, and what he endured. The Auxiliary was dressed in our uniforms, blue dress pants, white shirt, and red dress jackets with our American Flag scarfs. Two of the Auxiliary members unveiled the chair, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the place.

We presented the plaque to the Legion along with the chair. They were very thankful and appreciative. Now, as you walk into our post, immediately on your left is the POW-MIA chair of honor, a seat so all POW-MIAs know there will always be a place for them to sit in our Post. What a fine tribute to our veterans and our 81,000 POW-MIAs, and anyone who passes by, they have no choice but to think of our POW-MIAs. All our veterans signed that blank line, not knowing if they would ever come home, and every veteran deserves the right to come home. As we remember these POW-MIAs, with this chair they know they will never be forgotten.

Written by Tina Haggerty from Unit 357

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