An empty chair in South Dakota Capitol now honors those called to war who never returned

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — South Dakota’s Capitol now has an empty chair of honor for those members of the armed forced who never came home.

A ceremony Monday afternoon marked the formal dedication of the chair that commemorates those missing in action and prisoners of war.

The chair was donated by the Brookings-based Rolling Thunder chapter. Sioux Falls artist Gar Kellogg designed the display.

South Dakota’s three members of Congress sent spokesmen. Governor Kristi Noem delivered remarks in the Capitol rotunda.

The governor said South Dakota has been sending soldiers to fight since the Spanish-American War in 1898. She said there are about 130 members of the armed forces who still remain missing in action.

“Today, we dedicate this Capitol memorial to all the POW-MIA soldiers from South Dakota and from across America as well, as we know there are South Dakotans who have family members from other states,” Noem said.

“This ceremony is a reaffirmation of our commitment to find and identify and bring home every missing South Dakota soldier, so that we can have them here with their families. We are also reminded to pray for those families, and for those who haven’t seen their soldiers come home yet.

“My hope is this chair is a reminder to everyone who visits this Capitol. It’s a reminder about the sacrifices that our military make every single day and the bravery that it takes to answer the call to serve.”

Steve Wallem of Lake Preston is president of the Rolling Thunder chapter that donated the chair. It took about four years to raise the donations. The display cost more than $5,000.

“Never forget,” Wallem said. “Never forget.”

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