Chick-Fil-A is famous for its tantalizingly tasty chicken sandwiches and waffle fries. The extremely successful fast food franchise is also both revered and reviled for the Christian values it espouses.
Over the recent Memorial Day weekend, Chick-Fil-A showed compassion and respect for those valiant men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect the freedoms Americans enjoy. The fast food giant accomplished this important task by setting up a “Missing Man Table” at many of its locations.
The “Missing Man Table” tradition began about two years ago after a post from a Chick-Fil-A franchise in Gardendale, Alabama went viral. The table at the restaurant consisted of a framed note, which said the following:
“We cover a small table with a white cloth to honor a soldier’s pure heart when he answers his country’s call to duty. We place a lemon slice and grains of salt on a plate to show a captive soldier’s bitter fate and tears of families waiting for loved ones to return. We push an empty chair to the table for the missing soldiers who are not here.
“We lay a black napkin for the sorrow of captivity, and turn over the glass for the meal that won’t be eaten. We place a white candle for peace. And finally a red rose in a vase tied with a red ribbon for the hope that all our missing will return someday. You are not forgotten so long as there is one left in whom your memory remains.”
At this time, two Chick-Fil-A’s in Alabama made this thoughtful gesture. The owners of these franchises had no idea they were ushering in a nationwide tradition.
Marinus Storm, a retired Navy Commander, operates a Chick-Fil-A restaurant in Jacksonville, Florida. Regarding the “Missing Man Table” he sets up in the eatery he runs, Storm said, “People have always been touched by it, especially veterans and the generation that has children in the armed forces now.”
Besides Memorial Day, Storm sets up the table on other major holidays. The retired Navy Commander takes pride in honoring fallen service members. Storm views the “Missing Man Table” as an opportunity to remind Americans of the fact that Gold Star Families, families who’ve lost those they love in action, are forced to live with an empty seat at their tables for the rest of their lives.
“There’s no doubt this is an opportunity to teach people, specifically those who don’t have any connection to the military, about the sacrifices our service members make and that those losses last,” he said.
Like Storm, Chelsea Blackstock, Marketing Manager of a Chick-Fil-A restaurant in Marietta, Georgia, includes a “Missing Man Table” at her restaurant on Memorial Day. Regarding the gesture, she said, “The response is pretty incredible. It touches people.”
Blackstock was reportedly particularly affected by something someone added to the display at her establishment.
“One day, an article showed up on the table,” she recalled. “It was a newspaper story about a local veteran who had been missing in action since Vietnam.”
Ann Mills-Griffiths, Chairman of the Board for The National League of POW-MIA Families is thrilled with restaurant franchises like Chick-Fil-A setting up a “Missing Man Table.”
“It shows the military service members and families that people care,” she said. “And it’s a wonderful education, especially for children and young adults, to learn more about what patriotism and commitment really mean.”
Richard Weik, a retired Army Command Sergeant Major, agrees with Mills-Griffiths.
“We don’t have a draft anymore, so we have a lot of people who are far removed from the devastation of war,” he stated. “They can see that empty table and know that there’s someone who is no longer here because he or she volunteered to put himself between them and the wolf at the gate. And that soldier’s family: their spouse, their kids, their parents have to go on. That empty spot is permanent. We live it every day.”
~ 1776 Christian