America’s White Table — Veterans Day

America’s White Table is written by Margot Theis Raven and illustrated by Mike Benny for children of all ages.  I was delighted to find a book about this very simple, but deeply meaningful tradition observed by service members for over 35 years.  Few civilians are familiar with the symbolism.  It seemed the perfect book to share on Veterans Day.  Raven tells a moving story, and at the end  provides a detailed history of the origin of the White Table and how it became a symbol of caring for our MIA and POW service members after the Vietnam War.  Benny’s subdued pastel paintings add to the mood of the solemn occasion that transcends generations.

It is Veterans Day and Katie’s mother has invited her Uncle John for dinner.  She explains to Katie and her two sisters that they will  be setting a separate little table,  just like the ones that will be set in  Air Force, Army, Marine Corps and Navy dining halls across America to honor the men and women who have served their country.  Mama gets out a white table-cloth,  a single empty  chair, a white plate, silver ware, a black napkin, an overturned glass, a white candle and a red rose in a vase tied with a red ribbon.  She explains the significance of each item on the table, and what it will mean to Uncle John.

Much to Katie and her sister’s surprise, they learn a special story about their favorite uncle from their mother.  Uncle John was on a rescue mission in Vietnam when his helicopter was shot down over enemy territory.  He was taken as a Prisoner of War (POW).  Uncle John found an opportunity to escape and carried his wounded friend on his back to safety.  He was a hero.

Katie and her sisters are in awe when they hear the story.  Katie stares at the little white table and feels there is something missing.  The girls come up with a special idea and surprise their uncle at dinner.  Uncle John is moved beyond words by their loving gesture.

This is an outstanding book that will touch the hearts of young and old alike.  It is a time to remember and honor those who are not with us.

Copyright (c) 2011,  Patricia Howe Tilton, All Rights Reserved

About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

21 thoughts on “America’s White Table — Veterans Day

  1. Wow, I know nothing at all about this tradition. Thank you so much for this lovely introduction. I shall have to google to find out more. Is this a picture book, Pat, with the classic 32 pages? I am also, of course, super keen to know what plan the sisters come up with to touch their uncle John. This blog is wonderfully educational!


    • Joanna, you aren’t alone. Many civilians are unaware, even though it began after the Vietnam War. Yes, it is a picture book with 32 pags and information at the back of the book.:) I really debated whether to share the meaning behind each symbol since tomorrow is Veterans Day. I was familiar with the tradition since I worked for the Air Force. We usually had a white table set at major base/community dinners. And, there will be a public observance at Wright-Patterson AFB today or tomorrow.


  2. This book sounds wonderful, and I’m a little embarrassed to confess that I knew nothing of this tradition, so I think I’m going to have to find this book and read it for my own education! Thanks for sharing 🙂


    • You aren’t alone Susanna. I worked for the Air Force and attended many events where the table was set. I was happy to share this book on Veterans Day. I almost ran a short video that kids and a classroom posted on YouTube showing a table being set. I should have explained the meaning behind each item. So, you could google and get a sense of the tradition.


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    • Michael, thank you for stopping by. I was a civilian and worked for the Air Force. Saw your book “When You Miss Me.” Am always looking for good books to review for children dealing with deployments and grief. Usually devote a number of blogs to books. Will check out your book.


  4. Thank you for sharing this Patricia. I am sad to admit that I do not know all of the symbolism behind the things and the white table, but anything that is in support of our troops, the MIA’s and POW’s is well worth reading and doing a tribute to. I am so grateful for those that serve our country.


    • Abby, you aren’t alone. Many civilians are unfamiliar with this beautiful tradition. I should have shared the meaning of each item. You can google the subject online and see some videos school children have made. Thought it might be a good time to review this book with Veterans Day tomorrow.


  5. First of all, after reading the comments, I want to say I think it was good that you didn’t share the meaning of all the symbols — now each of us will become more personally involved as we search the internet ourselves to learn the meaning of each item.

    I, too, was unaware of the White Table, but now intend to set a White Table tomorrow, myself, remembering Lonnie Pat Bogard, a Viet Nam MIA whose name I wore on a bracelet back in the early 1970s, and who, I’ve learned, was shot down and didn’t survive.

    Thank you for this, Pat.


    • You are welcome. I really struggled with sharing the meaning. If you do set a table, take a picture and consider posting it. And think of my grandson, Greg. In the beginning it was for POWs/MIAs, but in more recent years it also represents all fallen soldiers. I will be a bit out of commission tomorrow. There was a colonel I worked with, and during special occasions he would recite by memory every war in alphabetical order — it took about12-15 minutes. We’d use it in conjunction with the white table, or when we’d host the last living medal of honor recipients. It always gave me chills.


    • Diane, it is an Amerian tradition, but all countries send soldiers to war. It would be nice if nice tradition everywhere to honor those who haven’t returned or lost their lives. And a thank you to those who serve. I am glad you found it special. 🙂


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    • I’m glad you found my post on the America’s White Table. I was familiar with the White Table because I worked for the Air Force and White Tables are set in dining halls on Veterans Day. We also set them at major AF-community dinners.


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