In Philly City Hall, empty chair honors those who never returned from war

 Medal of Honor recipients (front row from left) Mike Thornton and Hershel ''Woody'' Williams salute during the unveiling  ceremony for a Chair of Honor in the Mayor's Reception Room at City Hall. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Medal of Honor recipients (front row from left) Mike Thornton and Hershel ''Woody'' Williams salute during the unveiling ceremony for a Chair of Honor in the Mayor's Reception Room at City Hall. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

There’s a new chair in the mayor’s reception room in City Hall, but it’s not meant for sitting.

Beneath portraits of past mayors, now sits a black leather chair honoring prisoners of war and those declared missing in action.

On the seat, in white lettering, are the words “You are not forgotten,” the slogan of the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia, which helped push for the chair.

“With every tour group that comes through here, with every person who visits here, with every celebration or dedication that we do here, we want to make sure that the memory of all those folks remain in this room, remain in this building, remain in this city, remain in our hearts,” said Mayor Jim Kenney Monday during a ceremony to unveil the chair.

The chair, one of roughly 400 across the country, will be roped off. A helmet, gun and combat boots are placed around the legs.

To Ralph Galati, a former POW, it’s the right thing to do. There are still 90,000 soldiers considered missing from the conflicts of the 20th century.

“Which means there are 90,000 families who have never had a loved one come home and properly put them to rest,” said Galati. “I think this is the message that the City of Philadelphia and other agencies are trying to do, which is to make sure the public understands and appreciates that and hopefully continue to bring closure for families that need it.”

Monday’s service featured song, prayer and a rendition of taps.

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