CENTRE COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — About 81,600 American service members are listed as unaccounted for or missing in action. A “Chair of Honor” in Penn State’s Beaver Stadium will honor those who never returned home, symbolizing there will always be a place in the stadium awaiting their return.
“This chair stands as a representation for all those who did not return from answering our nation’s call,” said Debra Burger, a Missing in Action family member. “Our brother, Lewis, was one of those individuals.”
Major Lewis P. Smith II of Bellefonte was a Penn State ROTC alumnus and played trumpet in the Blue Band.
“Lewis graduated in 1964 and planned to teach music after his obligation to the Air Force,” said Burger.
His dreams were cut short. Major Smith never returned home from serving in the Vietnam War and was declared killed in action, body not recovered.
“Lewis deserves to be here, in the United States, to be home,” said Burger.
An empty chair in Beaver Stadium will serve as a reminder of Major Smith’s, and thousand of other’s, ultimate sacrifice.
“Remembering is incredibly important,” said Dr. Eric Barron, Penn State University president. “It helps us recall the people and places of our past, and provides a frame of reference as we move forward.”
“There are still many Americans unaccounted for and families just waiting for their loved ones to return home,” said Colonel Laura McHugh, Deputy Adjutant General-Army, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
For the Smith family and families across the country, the mission to find loved ones, or find closure, is ongoing.
“This seat will remain empty until all of the missing have returned home. In a packed stadium of 100,700 strong, this is a signal that our family is not yet whole,” said Barron.
The chair will be unveiled to the community during halftime of Penn State Football’s home-opener on September 11.
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