Chair to Honor POWs/MIAs Installed at Football Stadium

A national trend of honor comes to Mentor High School

Andrew Freeman, Editor

In many games at Mentor High’s Jerome T. Osborne Stadium, few seats are empty. One, however – barred off from any spectators – is meant to be unoccupied.

This commemorative seat, installed back in August, will stay empty for as long as the stadium stands. It sits at the 30 yard line on the home side of the bleachers, with a plaque that reads:

“You are not forgotten

Since World War I, more than 83,000 American soldiers are unaccounted for.

This unoccupied seat is dedicated to the memory of those brave men and women and the sacrifices each made in serving this country.

God Bless You. God Bless America.”

Mentor’s POW-MIA chair

This chair, installed to honor POW (Prisoner of War) and MIA (Missing in Action) service members, is a reminder of the sacrifice that has been given by the thousands of soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen who have never come home.

Mr. Chad Russo, a Social Studies teacher and MHS’s Assistant Athletic Director, headed the installation of the chair. In an interview, Mr. Russo explained the chair’s purpose this way:

“POW/MIA Chairs are a way for Mentor High School to honor veterans that have not come home from a conflict overseas. It also shows support for current veterans and military personnel that we are a military friendly school, and go above and beyond to show support and honor for service members.”

While the honoring of MIA/POW service members is a solemn and reverent gesture for any American, it’s personal for Mr. Russo, who himself is a veteran. As a matter of fact, it was Mr. Russo’s activeness in the local George F. Hayward VFW Post that served as the seat’s exigence.

“We’ve always honored MIA/POW at the Post,” Mr. Russo said, “and we started seeing more professional sports teams, along with NCAA teams honoring these hero’s through a chair at stadiums and arenas. I then was able to get in touch with Rolling Thunder who placed a chair at City Hall last spring.” 

Rolling Thunder, a non-profit veteran’s organization, was pivotal in the chair’s installation. Through a partnership with Mentor’s Athletic Department, Rolling Thunder helped finance the construction and placement of the chair.

“I knew this organization from having them come to MHS and host an assembly for my sophomore students in the past (they speak on the Vietnam War),” Mr. Russo tells us. “I then reached out to the commander Lou Ballard and asked what we could do to have a chair installed at MHS. We met several times last school year and over the summer, and were able to have everything in place for the first home football game.”

In addition to the chair currently at the football stadium, plans are in place to add a similar seat to the Soccer/Lacrosse stadium’s northern corner.

Furthermore, Mentor High is continuing multiple programs that have been established to support and honor American military members.  In coordination with the local VFW post, Mentor High has purchased two flag drop boxes for residents to ensure that their American flags are properly disposed of. One currently sits outside of the VFW post, with the other soon to be installed outside of Paradigm. MHS has also renewed its Purple Star Award, and will host the annual Veteran’s Day Assembly, followed by the Military Signing Day in the Spring.