It's A War Of Words
Article Courtesy of The Tampa Tribune
TAMPA - Before David Kelley went to Iraq, he bought his wife a "Support Our Troops" sign to display outside the couple's home in the Westchase subdivision.
When Kelley, an Army private, went overseas in November, Stacey Kelley posted the sign outside their home. For her, the sign is a daily reminder of the sacrifice her husband and fellow soldiers are making.
Displaying the sign and photographs is one of the ways Stacey Kelley stays connected to her husband during his two-year tour of duty, she said.
During their rare telephone conversations, Stacey Kelley said, she makes sure to tell her husband about the other signs, bumper stickers and symbols of support she sees.
"If we're showing any kind of support to them, I know they love it so much," she said. "They should never be forgotten."
One person who does understand the significance of the sign, both for Stacey Kelley and the troops, is Westchase homeowners association President Daryl Manning.
As the community's elected leader, Manning must enforce community standards, but as an Army reservist who served in Iraq, Manning is sympathetic to the Kelleys' situation.
"This sign is not offensive to me," Manning said. "In fact, I appreciate the support of the community, because I was one of those troops."
Manning said his personal feelings can't be allowed to trump his responsibility to the community. If Stacey Kelley is allowed to keep her sign, Manning said, there's nothing to prevent other residents from putting up signs that have negative messages about the troops.
Pat Gross, who lives across the street from the Kelleys, walks by the sign every day and says it hasn't stirred political debate in the community. If the association ever were to consider making an exception to its rule, Gross said, this would be the time.
The rule "is there for a reason, but sometimes the reason doesn't make sense," he said.
Neighbor Barbara Mulvihill said the association should be celebrating the sacrifice one of its residents is making, not creating problems for his wife.
"He's fighting for us, all of us," Mulvihill said.
Manning said the homeowners association will address the issue tonight at its monthly board meeting. The board could decide not to fine the Kelleys. Even so, Manning said, the sign likely will have to go.
Stacey Kelley, who plans to attend the meeting, said she's going to follow the advice her husband gave during their last conversation. "He said even if it comes down to paying the fines, he doesn't want to take it down."
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