I hosted author Margot Theis Raven at my library along with Col. Gail Halvorsen in the fall of 2003. At that time she was working on a book called America's White Table. She was in the middle of discussions with her publisher about some of the wording. I always marvel at the polishing and reworking of books with 32 pages and 500+ words.
She had the manuscript of the book with her and read it aloud to a group of us. I listened with huge tears in my eyes.
The AP has a moving article by Bruce Smith about the book and the custom of the remembrance White Table. It gives the background of the story and tradition that started with the Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association also known as the River Rats of Vietnam. Read the whole thing.
The book's webpage has this excerpt:
It was just a little white table...Raven hopes this will become a tradition with American families like flying the American flag.
but it felt as big as America when we helped Mama put each item on it and she told us why it was so important.
"We use a Small Table, girls," she explained first, "to show one soldier's lonely battle against many. We cover it 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 the tears of families waiting for loved ones to return," she continued.
"We push an Empty Chair to the table for the missing soldiers who are not here..."
I am going to go iron a white table cloth. I think we will prepare a table tomorrow.
Raven also authored Circle Unbroken (The Story of a Basket and Its People) which is on the Texas Bluebonnet reading list this year. It is about the traditions surrounding the beautiful Gullah sea grass baskets.
She is also an artist whose paintings are exhibited in Charleston, SC art galleries. I used to find photos of her work on the web but I could not today.