HYANNIS, Mass. — A woman who sparked an Internet furor after posting a photo of herself making an obscene gesture at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia has been placed on unpaid leave from her job with a Hyannis program for the disabled.
Lindsey Stone, 30, of Plymouth and her co-worker Jamie Schuh of Mashpee — who took the photo — are on leave while their employer, LIFE — which stands for Living Independently Forever — investigates the incident, according to a statement by Executive Director Diane Enochs.
Stone is listed as a case/money manager at the LIFE home in Hyannis, and Schuh is listed as a supported independent living director. The nonprofit organization operates condominium communities in Hyannis and Mashpee for adults with learning and intellectual disabilities.
The photo depicts Stone crouching in front of a sign that reads "Arlington National Cemetery: Silence and Respect," pantomiming a shout and holding up the middle finger of her right hand.
The two were on a company-sponsored trip to the military cemetery near Washington, D.C., when the photo was taken, according to LIFE's chief financial officer James Godsill. Forty program residents and eight staff members took part in the October trip, according to a statement on the LIFE Facebook page.
Stone posted the photo on her personal Facebook page as a joke, but she was quickly rebuked by people who saw it, according to Gawker.com. The photo and comments have been removed from Stone's page, but Gawker published a screen shot of Stone's Facebook response to the negative comments.
"Whoa whoa whoa ... wait," Stone wrote on Oct. 20, according to the screen shot on Gawker. "This is just us, being the douchebags that we are, challenging authority in general. Much like the pic posted the night before, of me smoking right next to a no smoking sign. OBVIOUSLY we meant NO disrespect to people that serve or have served our country."
An attempt to reach Stone for comment by phone Tuesday afternoon was unsuccessful.
Stone and Schuh released a statement Tuesday night apologizing for the photo.
"We sincerely apologize for all the pain we have caused by posting the picture we took in Washington D.C. on Facebook. We never meant any disrespect ... It was meant merely as a visual pun, intending to depict the exact opposite of what the sign said," the statement reads.
"We would also like to apologize to LIFE Inc. We regret having caused any suffering to the staff members, residents, families, and friends. We realize that it was an ignorant and distasteful thing for us to do, but we truly meant no harm. We are deeply sorry."
Godsill would not comment on Stone's contention that the photo was meant as a joke, but he did say it was not appropriate.
"We are appalled at what they represented, what they desecrated," he said of the photo. "We are absolutely outraged. It does not reflect the values of LIFE."
The organization's statement on its Facebook page, posted Tuesday afternoon, had drawn almost 3,000 comments by evening, almost all harshly criticizing Stone or the LIFE organization.
"This photograph in no way reflects the opinions or values of the LIFE organization, which holds our nation's veterans in the highest regard," the LIFE Facebook statement said. "We are proud to have veterans serving on our staff and board of trustees, and we value their service. The men and women who have selflessly fought and sacrificed their lives to protect the rights and lives of Americans deserve our utmost respect and gratitude. We are acutely aware that this photo has done a disservice to veterans and we are deeply saddened that it was taken and shared in a public medium."
After Stone's photo went viral it attracted national attention, spurring someone to create a Facebook group titled "Fire Lindsey Stone," which had garnered more than 10,000 "Likes" by Tuesday evening.
The Facebook page for Stolen Valor, an online community that tracks military impostors, drew some especially heated comments, including obscenities and prompting the site's manager to ask that users refrain from issuing threats and to stop posting negative comments on the LIFE page.
Godsill said the company is devastated by the negative publicity the photo of Stone has brought to the LIFE company.
"We do good work. It's appalling someone would do something so irresponsible," he said.