If you had a meal in a Maryland restaurant over the weekend, perhaps you saw one of them.

It's a Missing Man Table.

Surrounded by chatting diners but starkly empty in a busy restaurant, the Missing Man Table is marked by an untouched place setting, a bible and and empty chair. 

Missing Man Table

The tables are set on Memorial Day weekend to remind diners of the people who might have been joining them for a meal, had they not become casualties of war.

Forty six Maryland restaurants from Frederick to Ocean City displayed them this weekend, according to the Restaurant Association of Maryland.

"To me, sometimes I think it's something that should be up all year long," said Lynn Martins of the Seidel's Restaurant on Old Columbia Pike in Burtonsville.

One of Martins' guests Monday was 95-year-old World War II veteran Benjamin Brown who stopped quietly at the table to reflect.

Benjamin Brown

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Brown survived 33 missions in the South Pacific as a tail gunner in an B-29 bomber.

But the table did not spark stories of drama or heroics.

"One of the worst things we had to do was when crews would not return, we would have to pack up their belongings and their foot locker and send it back home," Brown said, as his voice trailed away.  

"I think of those that passed on. There were an awful lot of them,"  Brown added before a long and reflective silent pause as he stared at the empty black chair at the table.

Missing Man Table

Martins held back tears.

"I've heard him tell lots of stories over the years, but I never heard that one," she said.

“Restaurants are the cornerstones of their communities," said Marshall Weston, President & CEO of the Restaurant Association of Maryland. "They often donate to numerous charitable causes and most offer discounts to military and other service members to thank them for what they do to protect us. The Missing Man table is just another way for restaurants to recognize and honor them, while also reminding customers of their sacrifice."

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