Carthage, N.C. — Veterans in Moore County are no strangers to a hard fight. This time, the battle is on home turf, as the former servicemen and women plead with county leaders to block the construction of a Bojangles' restaurant near their memorial on U.S. Highway 15/501 in Carthage.
Chuck Spelman, president of Moore County Vietnam Veterans, says Bojangles' has already marked the proposed construction site – a 1.3-acre grassy plot about 500 feet from the memorial – with little orange flags. The county Board of Commissioners, however, says the county-owned land has not been sold and no plans have been finalized with the fast-food chain.
Spelman said Wednesday that the area surrounding the memorial, which bears more than 7,500 names, should remain a green space.
"These families need to be able to come here in solitude and silence," he said. "I don't want to be the one memorializing these people and hearing, 'May I take your order, please?'"
He added that the memorial is likely to grow over future generations.
Meeting minutes show the Moore County commissioners discussed the Bojangles' deal in three closed-door sessions – in October, February and May.
But Commissioner Nick Picerno said the board has no intention of selling the plot until a land-use study is complete.
"This is so premature, and it's such an emotional issue, that in my vote and in my opinion, I was nowhere close to selling anything," he said. "Until we finish the land plan, (we'll) tell Bojangles' we might be interested, but we might not be interested."
The board appointed a 10-member committee of veterans and commissioners to study whether any commercial development should be allowed near the memorial. Picerno said the county is committed to finding common ground with veterans.
"We're going to keep the sanctity of the memorial. (We) have made that vow," he said.
There is already a Hardee's restaurant on the edge of the plot near the memorial, but Spelman said it's not intrusive.
"Hardee's we don't even hear or see," he said.
He wants a quick resolution to the issue.
"We feel this is being drawn out," Spelman said. "When you go to a committee, chances are it's going to be drawn out for a longer period of time."