Editorials

Marine shows willingness to fight for what's right

Perhaps we shouldn't think of a Beaufort Marine as the "little guy," but "oohrah!" to the local fighter-jet pilot who fought for his rights against an imposing foe, one of the nation's largest mortgage companies.

Capt. Jonathon Rowles and his wife, Julia, stuck up for themselves, and they helped uncover Chase Home Finance's mistreatment of other service members.

The problems began in 2006, when Rowles' military status was changed from reserve to active duty. That made him eligible, under the 2003 Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, for a lower mortgage rate. That law also protects active-duty troops from foreclosure and aims to keep them from worrying about finances while serving their country.

But Chase Home Finance apparently failed to register the change and showed Rowles' account to be in arrears, even though his mortgage payments were automatically transferred from his bank account.

Pestering calls came in a torrent: Rowles states in court documents that they came not only to his residence, but also at work and to his mother's home. Many calls to his house came between 4 and 6 a.m., in clear violation of the Servicemembers Act.

The couple began documenting and recording the calls. Finally, when Rowles was scheduled to deploy to the Pacific, he decided documenting simply wasn't enough. He couldn't leave behind his pregnant wife to deal with this alone, so they sought resolution and enlisted Beaufort's Harvey and Battey law firm.

And their lawyers discovered the Rowles' case apparently is not an isolated one.

In fact, as a result of Rowles' efforts, Chase officials admitted to NBC News they improperly foreclosed on the homes of 14 military families and might have overcharged 4,000 more. The officials also have said they have reviewed their servicing of home loans to troops and will return about $2 million to those who might have paid more than required.

But the fight is not over for the Rowles. Setting the family's mortgage account straight doesn't square them for years of harassing calls, neither does it preclude similar treatment of other families of active duty troops.

The Rowles and their attorneys are seeking class-action status for their lawsuit against Chase, and Julia Rowles has vowed to continue to speak out against such treatment until it ceases.

Good for them. We owe the Rowles thanks for their service in a battle they chose and for the good fight in a battle they did not.

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