When top officials come to bases like Camp Lejeune, they are usually treated to a rigmarole of miitary ceremony: parades, demonstrations of boom-boom war tools, powwows with base and area notables, and of course, press conferences. It's a drill that may be new to this president, but will soon become familiar, even routine.
Yet when our new President comes to Camp Lejeune on February 27, he has a chance to see something different.
At Camp Lejeune there's a custom that is different from what happens here at Fort Bra
gg. When marine units return from combat
deployments, family members are encouraged to make "Welcome Home" banners for them, mainly on bed sheets.
These banners are hung on a fence that runs along North Carolina Route 24, a public highway that crosses a piece of Camp Lejeune. The returning Marines land at a nearby airfield, then are bused to the base, down NC 24 and in clear sight of these banners. They are an obvious boost to morale for the war-weary.
Many of these colorful displays hang for weeks, until wind and weather bring them down. They are visible enough to those who drive past the base, but are likely to be missed by someone coming in by helicopter, as
the Commander In Chief is likely to do.
I've been taking photos of some of these banners for several years. They are a form of ephemeral public folk art and shared storytelling that often pack a lot of meaning into a small space.
A group of several hundred Marines returned home earlier in February, and fortunately they did not suffer any fatal casualties. The president could do well to see and reflect on the batch of banners that was put up to welcome them back. So could other Americans.
As a public service, this post offers him and others several examples.
NOTE: There are more photos of these Marine banners inn a special section of our website, here.