COCOA BEACH, Fla. — The absence of a Bible from a Florida Air Force display honoring American soldiers missing in action has generated controversy.
Michael Tater, 64, told reporters this week that he recently noticed that the Missing Man Table at the Patrick Air Force Base in Cocoa Beach was itself MIA and contacted officials to express concern. The Missing Man Table serves as a remembrance of those soldiers whose whereabouts are unknown and have not yet returned home. It customarily consists of an inverted glass, a red rose and a Bible, among other features.
While Tater has not yet received a personal response, the Air Force released a public statement outlining that the Bible was the reason for the table’s disappearance. Officials at the base stated that the presence of the Bible created contention among those who viewed the display.
“The 45th Space Wing deeply desires to honor America’s Prisoners of War (POW) and Missing in Action (MIA) personnel,” they wrote in a news release. “Unfortunately, the Bible’s presence or absence on the table at the Riverside Dining Facility ignited controversy and division, distracting from the table’s primary purpose of honoring POWs/MIAs.”
The table was subsequently removed altogether and replaced with a flag.
“[W]e temporarily replaced the table with the POW/MIA flag in an effort to show our continued support of these heroes while seeking an acceptable solution to the controversy,” the Air Force outlined.
However, officials now state that the table will now be returned—albeit with no mention of whether the Bible will continue to be a part of the display.
“After consultation with several relevant organizations, we now intend to re-introduce the POW/MIA table in a manner inclusive of all POWs/MIAs as well as Americans everywhere,” they said.