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thedrifter
07-13-08, 08:57 AM
Jones stands ground on Lejeune memorial in hall outside office
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July 13, 2008 - 12:12AM
MOLLY DEWITT
DAILY NEWS STAFF

A memorial honoring Camp Lejeune's fallen service members may have to come down.

A "Hallway Policy" approved by Nancy Pelosi, house speaker and chair of the House Office Building Commission, limits the display and placement of items in hallways of the House of Representatives office buildings. That includes a display erected by Representative Walter B. Jones (R-NC) outside his office.

Jones's Faces of the Fallen memorial consists of several easels displaying 3-by-1 posters bearing the names and faces of Marines from Camp Lejeune who died while serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.

The policy specifically prohibits easels from being placed in a hallway.

"We're not talking about posters. We're not talking about things in the hall," Jones said. "We're talking about men and women that died for this country.

The hallway policy, instituted on April 17, was "developed to improve House compliance with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Occupational Safety and Health Act as applied to Congress by the Congressional Accountability Act, and the Life Safety Code," according to the policy.

"This is just typical beaurocratic malarkey," Jones said.

No one has ever complained about loss of hallway accessibility due to the memorial, Jones said.

"I've never had anybody come in and tell me that they had trouble getting through the hall," he said. "I've seen people with wheelchairs, I've seen a large number of people walk by and it's never impeded anyone from getting through the hall."

Deborah May, whose husband Staff Sgt. Donald C. May Jr. was killed March 25, 2003 during Operation Iraqi Freedom, said she's walked the hallways in the House of Representatives office buildings.

"You could have a wheelchair race down those halls, because they're very wide," she said.

She wants the memorial display to remain.

"When I go, I take my small children with me. The very least they could do is put a picture there to show my children that my husband is remembered and that this is what our government is about and our country and the freedoms we have," May said, tearing up.

The memorial has been displayed outside of Jones' various office locations for the past five years and several years ago an initial attempt to remove them was made, he said.

"Those that write the rules just don't have the respect for those have given their life for their country," Jones said. "As far as I'm concerned this is disrespectful to those who have given their lives in Afghanistan and Iraq."

Jones believes Pelosi will make an exception for the memorial.

"When we're having men and women dying every day and every week in Afghanistan and in Iraq - my God, the least that we can do is have people walk by and see the face of one that never came back home," Jones said. "I think Ms. Pelosi will understand."

Jones sent a letter to Pelosi on Wednesday regarding the matter.

It has been suggested to Jones that a listing of the names of the fallen be placed in an entrance foyer, but he believes that to be insufficient, he said in the letter to Pelosi.

Jones said, regardless of her decision, he plans to stand his ground in the situation.

"We're not going to let this be an issue, were going to do what's right," Jones said. "I told them they'll have to remove me with the posters."

Vivianne Wersel, the president of the Surviving Spouses Support Group at Camp Lejeune, said the memorial is as much an icon as the American flag.

"These service members have given their lives for a conflict and something that they believe in," she said. "I think that it is a reminder for those that are visiting Congress and that is what America is all about. Whether my husband's picture is in it or not, it plays a role to remind those that walk the hall of Congress. They can walk the halls of Congress because of these young men that have given them the freedom to speak and the freedom to live."

Contact Jacksonville/Onslow government reporter Molly DeWitt at 910-219-8457 or mdewitt@freedomenc.com. Visit www.jdnews.com to comment.

Ellie