TOLEDO, Ohio (NNS) -- Since World War II, more than 83,000 American service members remain unaccounted for. These men and women who answered our nation's call to service are classified as Prisoners of War or Missing in Action.
The University of Toledo, for the second time in five months, dedicated a permanently unoccupied seat in one of its athletic facilities to serve as a constant reminder that our country must never forget the sacrifices of the nation's POWs and MIAs.
"I first got the idea after reading a story about a POW and MIA chair dedication at Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots," said Navy Reserve Lt. Haraz N. Ghanbari, The University of Toledo's military liaison. "I called the Patriots front office who put me in touch with Joe D'Entremont, the president of Rolling Thunder Chapter 1 in Massachusetts. Joe worked to make the chair at Gillette a reality, and as the saying goes, 'the rest is history.'"
As the military liaison, Ghanbari helps service members and veterans with their transition from military service to the classroom and beyond. Ohio is home to almost 900,000 veterans, the sixth-largest population of veterans in the country, so Ghanbari said dedicating these seats was a natural fit for the university. Toledo was the first university in the country to have such a dedication, and Ghanbari said he hopes others will follow suite.
The first chair is permanently affixed in Section 1 of the Glass Bowl football stadium, and was dedicated before the UT versus Navy football game in October 2013. The second chair was dedicated March 1, at the John F. Savage Arena when the UT men's basketball team welcomed Western Michigan. The chair at Savage is affixed to a mobile platform, which will allow it to be moved into position for every game. University officials note the chair will be at floor level, across from the visitor's bench.
Both chairs were donated to the university by Hussey Seating headquartered in Maine, and Ghanbari worked with various departments on campus to offset the cost of the accompanying bronze plaques, which measure almost three feet high by two and half feet wide.
Navy Operational Support Center Toledo Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Matt Kelsey, a current University of Toledo student, was chosen to participate in Saturday's dedication.
"I was humbled to represent my fellow service members during this dedication," said Kelsey. "As a student at The University of Toledo, it is great that our Military Service Center took the initiative to make sure our Prisoners of War and Missing in Action are never forgotten."
Joining Kelsey was Mike O'Brien, a university vice-president and athletic director, and Dennis Lettman, the dean of the College of Adult and Lifelong Learning.
For more news from Commander, Navy Reserve Force, visit www.navy.mil/local/nrf/.