MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C --
Thousand of Marines deploy from Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, annually. When they return home, the sight of welcome home banners carry messages of rejoice, gratitude, excitement or a long-awaited reunion from families and the community they left behind.
The hanging of the homecoming signs on MCB Camp Lejeune's fence near the main gate entrance has become a tradition that many would like to continue, but when patrons post signs that do not abide by base regulations, base personnel are obligated to remove them.
"We've been addressing this through our chain for a long time," said Master Sgt. Thomas A. Eilmes, the operations chief with Headquarters and Support Battalion S-3, MCB Camp Lejeune. "We pull the signs down on Thursdays by directions of the base commander. It's been in place for a while, and it's the base commander's policy."
Family readiness officers brief families about the banner policy, but it is up to the families to follow the regulations so that they do not bring discredit to the Marine Corps.
"(Patrons) shouldn't include anything on their sign or banner that would bring disrepute on the Marine Corps," said Rhonda Tomlinson, the FRO with HQSPTBn.
Base personnel monitor the signs posted to ensure that all of the content is in accordance with banner policy. Patrons or members of the local community can also help filter out inappropriate banner by informing the base.
"As soon as they're identified, they're immediately pulled down," said Eilmes. "My best advice is if you're not going to be able to hang it on your mother's house for a welcome home, it's probably inappropriate on the fence line on the base."
Though a banner may be appropriate, placing them in the designated areas is just as important.
"The commands know they can put up signs, but they don't abide by it as far is putting them in the correct location," said Eilmes. "Additionally, they don't always follow up to make sure that signs are taken down."
Banners are authorized only on the fence line along Highway 24. If signs are hung or placed in the tree lines and at or near the triangle gate, they will be removed.
"Signs can become a safety issue if signs aren't placed in the right (areas) or properly (fastened so) they don't fly into the road," said Tomlinson.
"(Signs) should be fastened securely, with things such as grommets with zip-ties," added Eilmes. "Patrons should use materials that will withstand (some weathering,) because they break down and create debris. This also happens when cups are inserted in the fences."
Although the rules are firm, there can be an exception to posting signs in unauthorized areas. This is allowed when there are a large number of units returning from deployments.
"It's easy to run out of room, so we'll allow (families) to put banners along the fence at (MCB Camp Lejeune's) Midway Park housing area," said Eilmes. "We understand and allow this because it's good for the families and Marines."
There are units that may have a change to their return date, but if the unit notifies their FRO no later than noon, Wednesday, they can keep the signs up.
Patrons are also allowed to go out to retrieve their signs with HQSPTBn. Marines before they remove and dispose of them.
Eilmes asks patrons to use materials that are also cost effective in case they are unable to retrieve their sign. Unfortunately, base personnel will not be able to hold or save banners for patrons.
The enforced rules are stern, but base personnel have always shown compassion for the matter because they are more than just words on a banner.
"It's a way for the families to recognize what the deployed service member has done, and welcome him back," said Tomlinson. "The units will decide to have
events where they go out together and put up signs. It also helps out the FROs and the Family Readiness Program by bringing them together."
Community businesses have also shown their appreciation by posting up signs of their own.
"It's important to continue and allow homecoming banners because it shows the community support for our returning heroes," said Eilmes. "We are all glad to see our service members return."
For more information on the policy, contact your FRO.