Women fired after Arlington Cemetery photo outcry

WASHINGTON – Outrage over a photo taken at Arlington National Cemetery has cost two women their jobs and touched a nerve locally.

The photo, snapped during a visit to the hallowed site, shows Lindsey Stone displaying a lewd gesture toward a sign, which asks visitors to be silent and respectful while visiting the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Stone on and her coworker, Jamie Schuh, both of Massachusetts, were visiting D.C. and the site as part of a work-sponsored trip when the photo was taken.

The women worked for LIFE, Living Independently Forever, Inc., which provides support for adults with disabilities who are living independently with disabilities.

As the photo went viral, the company quickly responded that the women were on leave pending an investigation. Around 7 p.m. Wednesday, the company posted on its Facebook page that their employment was terminated.

“We wish to announce that the two employees recently involved in the Arlington Cemetery incident are no longer employees of LIFE. Again, we deeply regret any disrespect to members of the military and their families. The incident and publicity has been very upsetting to the learning disabled population we serve. To protect our residents, any comments, however well-intentioned, will be deleted. We appreciate your concern and understanding as we focus on the care of our community.”

Sharp criticism of the photo grew quickly online and a Facebook page was created seeking Stone’s dismissal from her job with Living Independently Forever, Inc, which works with disabled adults.

Living Independently Forever’s initial response to the backlash, posted Tuesday , has since been deleted.

When contacted by WTOP, Arlington cemetery officials declined to comment about the viral reaction.

The reaction on the National Mall Wednesday: Disgust. Several people told WTOP that the photo was disrespectful. Others said it was yet another reminder to think twice about what is shared through social media.

The cemetery’s website provides guidelines for visitors, reminding them that Arlington is an active cemetery that holds an average of 27 funerals a day. And visitors are asked and reminded not to interrupt those ceremonies.

“All visitors to the cemetery are expected to observe proper standards of decorum and decency while within the cemetery grounds,” the cemetery’s says on its Frequently Asked Questions page.

Federal regulations that dictate behavior and use of the grounds state that no person shall “Utter to any person present abusive, insulting, profane, indecent or otherwise provocative language or gesture that by its very utterance tends to incite an immediate breach of the peace” among other restrictions against demonstrations, picketing and partisan activities.

Following the outcry in the Boston area, the women released a statement apologizing for their behavior, according to the WBZ.

“The picture was intended only for our own amusement. We never meant any disrespect to any of the people nationwide who have served this country and defended our freedom so valiantly. It was meant merely as a visual pun, intending to depict the exact opposite of what the sign said, and had absolutely nothing to do with the location it was taken or the people represented there,” their statement said in part.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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