Third and fourth grade students at Kleberg Elementary School learned about the importance of honoring soldiers who went missing or were captured by the enemy during wartime as veterans with the Kingsville VFW Post 2375 presented a POW-MIA table to the school on Friday.

“I wanted the children, the staff and the community to be exposed to the significance of the prisoners of war and the missing in action,” Principal Ode Moreno said. “It’s a symbol of what has happened in the past that they need to be aware of.”

Moreno, whose husband John is a former commander with the Kingsville VFW Post 2375, said she had first brought the POW-MIA table to the Kingsville Independent School District in 2017 when she was the assistant principal at Harrel Elementary School.

Post Commander Ann Marie Torres said Moreno has “always been a huge advocate for our veterans,” and had reached out to their VFW quartermaster, Roy Davis, to bring a POW-MIA table to Kleberg Elementary.

“A lot of our millennials and our younger generation aren’t aware of the service members that we still have missing in action or what our POWs went through,” Torres said. “It’s not a common thing that they hear about, so I think it’s important for them to understand the sacrifices that our veterans made and their families are still suffering through.”

The POW-MIA Table, also known as the Missing Man or Fallen Comrade Table, is a small dining table dressed to symbolize, and to honor, United States soldiers who are or were prisoners of war or are missing in action.

Each item placed on the table carries meaning, such as the single red rose set in a vase that signifies the blood shed in sacrifice to ensure freedom for the United States.

The table will be on display in the school’s library for the entire school year, which Torres said “brightens my heart and my soul.”

“I think that each school should have the POW-MIA table just so (the students) will know the sacrifices that were made for their freedom,” she said.

Kleberg Elementary librarian Dolores Vacca, herself a veteran of the U.S. Navy Reserve, said having the table in the school’s library year-round is “an honor.”

“I’m very proud of this school, and very glad that they were able to do this,” Vacca said.

Following a ceremony explaining the POW-MIA table, Torres and Davis answered questions from the students about military service and active duty during wartime. Vacca said she could see that the students got a lot out of the program.

“It gave (the students) a different perspective from what they see in the movies,” Vacca said. “And meeting veterans in person and being able to ask questions will stick with them. It makes it real for them, and I think gives them a little more respect for veterans and the military.”

Anthony Ruiz can be contacted at aruiz@king-ranch.com or (361) 221-0251.

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