Concord dedicates Chair of Honor

Concord Township Council held a ceremony dedicating a Chair of Honor for United States military personnel who went missing in action but who were never found.

The ceremony, part of the Oct. 5 Council meeting, featured Wallingford resident Ralph W. Galati, Capt. USAF, a former fighter pilot. Galati was stationed in Thailand during the Vietnam War when his F 4 Phantom was shot down over North Vietnam in 1972. He was a prisoner of war, held captive for more than 400 days.

Council Co-Vice President John Gillespie described the action leading to Galati’s capture. He said Galati remained over hostile territory for more than two hours spotting targets while drawing heavy anti-aircraft fire that February night in 1972. Galati’s targeting led to the destruction of two heavy field pieces, Gillespie said, five anti-aircraft positions, and a supply warehouse before Galati was shot down.

Galati, who was eventually awarded a Silver Star for his actions, thanked the council for dedicating the chair.

The inscription on the Chair of Honor. The chair is now on display in the lobby of the Concord Township municipal building.

“I’m a lucky guy. I survived Feb. 16, 1972. I was lucky that I had 591 mentors when I was in Hanoi.”

Those “mentors” were fellow U.S. prisoners of war, some of whom had been prisoners since 1964. He said the newer prisoners did the best they could to let the men who had been held captive longer that they had not been forgotten.

He said there’s an obligation to remember that more than 80,000 members of the United States military have been missing since WWII and their remains have never been found. It is to them, he said, that the chair is dedicated.

“What this chair represents is your acknowledgment, your recognition of the missing. Thank you for doing that,” Galati said to members of the council.

Gillespie then read the dedication.

“This memorial of an empty chair symbolizes the absence of the soldier who has given the ultimate sacrifice, held prisoner of war, or listed as missing in action whose remains have not been returned.

“Since WWII, more than 82,000 service members are unaccounted for. This memorial honors all those who never came home.

“We will never forget their service and sacrifice.”

The ceremony ended will the playing of Taps. The chair will be on display in the township building’s lobby.

About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.

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