Veterans Voices

Restaurant honors fallen vets with 'Missing Man' table

BYRON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — At first glance, Sandi's Family Restaurant off S. Division Avenue near 68th Street looks and sounds like most restaurants. But if you look closer, you'll notice tributes to those who have defended America.

Flags for each branch of the military hang on the walls. And in one corner sits a special tribute. 

"It's the Missing Man table," explained owner Brian Kabban. "It was started after Vietnam."

Kabban is also a veteran. He served in the Marines and was deployed to Afghanistan in 2013.

Now, every Memorial Day and Veterans Day, he brings tradition home.

"It's at most of our cafeterias in the military," Kabban said of the table. "And I thought that it would be deserving to have it here as well."

The table is a way to honor prisoners of war -- those who've gone missing or were killed while serving our country. 

That includes David Warsen, a Kentwood native and Navy SEAL who was killed in 2012 when his helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan.

"It touches home to a lot of people that see it," Kabban said. 

On the table rests a Bible, a rose and a candle. Everything on the table carries meaning.

A slice of lemon reminds of the 'bitter fate' of those lost. Salt is a symbol of their family's tears. And there also sits a lone chair. 

"The chair remains empty for those that can't sit at it," Kabban said. "A lot of our veterans, our war vets,  get pretty teary-eyed when they see it. And every time we light the candle, we try to get a veteran to light it for us."

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Lena Haaskma is a regular at the restaurant, as is her husband, who's also a veteran. 

"The first time I saw (the table) I just thought it was so special," Haaksma told 24 Hour News 8. "People have to know that they died for us. For our freedom."

"They should just think about the people that they should really be thankful for," Kabban said of those who visit. "Not the people that came home but the people who gave everything to keep our freedom safe."

Sandi's Family Restaurant is closed Sunday, but will reopen Monday and will be offering free meals to all veterans in observation of Veterans Day.


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