- Thursday, May 26, 2016

A commemorative chair in honor of POW/MIA service members — which will remain empty in perpetuity — will be soon placed in the U.S. Capitol, according to a newly passed law.

The National POW/MIA Remembrance Act of 2015, sponsored by Rep. Stephen F. Lynch, Massachusetts Democrat, and passed this spring with unanimous support in both chambers of Congress, was signed into law by President Obama on April 29.

The act, also known as H.R. 1670, directs the Architect of the Capitol to place a chair in a prominent location in the U.S. Capitol in honor of American military personnel who remain missing or prisoners of war.

The chair will bear the logo of the National League of POW/MIA Families and will be paid for by privately raised funds; it must be established on Capitol grounds within two years.

Lawmakers praised Rolling Thunder leaders and members for their efforts to get a chair of honor into the U.S. Capitol.

“Each day, members of Congress and visitors to the U.S. Capitol will pass by the chair of honor and take a moment to pay respect to our prisoners of war and missing in action who bravely serve our nation with honor and valor,” Mr. Lynch said after the law was signed.

“It was the strong advocacy of Rolling Thunder that brought this bill to the finish line and on to the president’s desk,” he added, citing Rolling Thunder leaders Gus Dante and Joe D’Entremont and members of Rolling Thunder Massachusetts Chapter 1 for their advocacy for the issue.

House Administration Committee Chairman Candice S. Miller, Michigan Republican, who shepherded the bill to its unanimous voice vote on March 21, said, “Our heroes deserve to be honored, especially in the U.S. Capitol, which is itself a symbol of our American beliefs and the liberties and freedoms that they sacrificed to defend.”

In the Senate, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts Democrat, and Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, introduced the “chair of honor” measure in 2015.

“As the brother of a veteran and from a state with over 1 million veterans, I know firsthand the sacrifices that our men and women in uniform and their families make to keep our nation safe every single day of the year,” Mr. Rubio said after the Senate passed the measure by unanimous consent on April 14.

“Within the past year,” Mr. Rubio said, “multiple veterans service organizations, including Rolling Thunder, have visited my office to advocate for this bill on behalf of those who left this country to defend our freedoms abroad and never returned. I’m proud of the fact that when they visit, they are continually greeted by a black and white POW/MIA flag that always stands outside my office.”

“My three older brothers served in the military, and I appreciate the sacrifices our service members and their families make each day to keep our country safe,” said Ms. Warren. “This commemorative chair will serve as a lasting reminder to honor America’s missing service members and prisoners of war, and I thank the Massachusetts Chapter of Rolling Thunder and Rolling Thunder National for their hard work to get this bill passed and signed into law.”

Similar POW/MIA chairs of honor have been established in many major sports stadiums and other public places through a program with Hussey Seating Co., in Maine. The chairs are intended to be public reminders of the estimated 83,000 troops still missing in action or held as prisoners of war.

Cheryl Wetzstein, formerly a national news reporter, is manager of special sections for The Washington Times.

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