COLUMBIA — A lone table sat opposite the podium in Memorial Union’s Stotler Lounge on Thursday.
Covered with a white tablecloth, the table was empty except for a few carefully chosen items. An upside-down glass sat next to a plate containing only a paper lemon slice. A single salt shaker and a red rose in a vase tied with a red ribbon were the only other items allowed on the table. The table was set for one, set for a soldier who would never show.
Called the Missing Man Table, it's a symbolic memorial to prisoners of war and soldiers missing in action. And it was just one way MU recognized veterans and their families for their service and sacrifices on Thursday.
MU students and staff, veterans, and state and local officials gathered to recognize veterans and celebrate the collaboration on the Missouri Veterans Oral History Project.
Regardless of the war, “our veterans have a story to tell, and that plays a unique part in the history of our nation,” MU Chancellor Brady Deaton said.
State Rep. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur, recognized the people and organizations that helped start the Missouri Veterans Oral History Project after state budget cuts brought the original Missouri Veterans Stories project to a halt.
“The state had good intentions” but, in light of the budget crisis, simply could not maintain funding for the program, Schupp said.
Through the collaboration of the Midwest Litigation Society, Columbia College, MU and local military service organizations, the stories of Missouri veterans will not be lost.
“What better way to remember the sacrifice of the men and women who have given all than this project?” Columbia Mayor Bob McDavid said.
The group also celebrated the grand opening of the MU Veterans Center. Originally part of the Admissions Office, Deaton helped lead the push to make it a freestanding office.
“He wanted to make the campus more veteran friendly,” Veterans Center Director Carol Fleisher said.
Fleisher recognized faculty, staff, students and the Mizzou Student Veterans Association for helping to make the center and MU “more individualized, more friendly” for student veterans.
Army Brig. Gen. Marty Robinson, who along with Schupp was presented with a special coin recognizing their service to veterans at MU, admired the new office.
Robinson liked the new facilities and the noticeable support MU gives to its veterans.
“This facility speaks volumes about the support your university gives," Robinson said. "You have a center dedicated to the veterans. You’ve given it a priority.”