Soldier suspended over 'inappropriate' pictures from funeral honors duty
National Guard says 'distasteful' images, comments posted to social media
The Wisconsin National Guard has suspended a soldier from funeral honors duty over the sharing of what it called "controversial and distasteful" pictures her and other guard members during the funerals of fallen soldiers.
Director of Communications Maj. Paul Rickert confirmed that Specialist Terry Harrison posted the photos to her Instagram account. He also confirmed Harrison is a Milwaukee resident, and has been with the National Guard for a year.
She is still a member of the National Guard and receiving pay, but has been assigned to other duties.
In a news release Tuesday, Rickert said the state National Guard understands the photos would be upsetting.
"A military funeral is the final show of respect for our veterans and their families, and we take that solemn duty very seriously," Rickert said. "The very name 'military funeral honors' underscores the importance we ascribe - both as the military and society at large - to such solemn occasions. These photos and comments do not appear to align with those values."
One of the images shows a woman, who appears to be in the Honor Guard, taking selfies and complaining about the cold weather. The text that goes along with the picture reads, "Somebody's getting a jacked up flag." Rickert said the photo suggests that the cold weather at a military funeral may result in a poor folding of the U.S. flag to be presented.
In the Tuesday news release, Maj. Gen. Donald P. Dunbar, the Wisconsin adjutant general, said he was upset by the images.
"I was appalled by the offensive photos and comments that appeared on [Harrison's] social media site regarding her duties as a funeral honor guard member," Dunbar said.
Another picture shows a group of guard members huddled around a flag-draped casket and posing. It's captioned with, "We put the FUN in funeral--your fearless honor guard from various states..." The National Guard said the casket in the picture was empty and the picture was taken during training in Arkansas.
There is also another picture collage of a cemetery, a meal and a selfie of the believed Honor Guard member. She called it "tailgating."
American Legion State Commander Ken Rynes said while he is confident the National Guard will handle the situation appropriately, he had a very strong reaction to the photos.
"I know these are kids that weren't thinking when it comes to social media. You can do things spur of the moment that one second after you hit the send button, you regret it and can't draw it back," Rynes said.
Rynes said it doesn't seem like these younger soldiers have ever had to lay one of their friends or family members to rest.
"Obviously none of them have been through that," Rynes said. "There's no way they could have been."
Rynes added just because the group shot was taken during training and not at a funeral, it does not make it acceptable.
"It helps, but it doesn't make it any less atrocious," Rynes said.
Dunbar ordered an investigation into the matter.
The National Guard said it has taken measures to ensure Harrison's safety following threats she received via social media.
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