National Guard soldier suspended over ‘distasteful’ military funeral photos and comments
WASHINGTON — A Wisconsin National Guard servicemember who posted controversial photos and comments regarding military funerals on social media, including one photo caption that read, ‘We put the FUN in funerals — your fearless honor guard from various states’, has been removed from her duties pending the outcome of an ongoing investigation, the Wisconsin National Guard said in a press release Tuesday.
The photos and comments appeared on the Instagram page of Spc. Terry Harrison, a member of the Madison, Wis.-based 1st Battalion, 147th Aviation Regiment. Harrison has since been removed from the funeral detail indefinitely, according to the Wisconsin National Guard.
One of the photos shows a group of soldiers in Army Combat Uniforms, some posing disrespectfully around a flag-draped training casket, along with the aforementioned caption. The other photo shows Harrison in a car, and the comment below it reads, “It’s so damn cold out. Why have a funeral outside!? Somebody’s getting a jacked up flag,” suggesting that the family of a fallen servicemember would receive an unprofessionally presented American flag during the ceremony because of the poor weather.
Harrison is the only member of the Wisconsin National Guard who appears in the training casket photo. The other soldiers in the photo belong to other units, according to Maj. Paul Rickert, the Wisconsin National Guard’s director of public affairs. Rickert said he does not know the identity of the other soldiers.
The Wisconsin National Guard described the photos and comments as “distasteful,” and said the organization first became aware of them late Monday. The images have gone viral on social media, and come just days after another photo, showing an airman posing disrespectfully with a POW/MIA logo, which created a firestorm on the Internet.
The photos and comments do not portray any misconduct during the performance of actual military funeral honors. The group photo with the training casket was taken at the Professional Education Center, a National Guard training facility in North Little Rock, Ark., the Wisconsin National Guard said.
Rickert understands why people are offended, according to the news release.
“The Wisconsin National Guard expects all soldiers who carry out this sacred detail to handle it with professionalism and honor … 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."
Maj. Gen. Donald Dunbar, the Wisconsin adjutant general who ordered the investigation, said he was “appalled” by the photos and comments and he finds them “offensive.”
"We expect all of our soldiers and airmen to live by a core set of values, in word and deed," Dunbar said in the release.
Gen. Frank Grass, the Chief of the National Guard Bureau at the Pentagon, weighed in on the issue.
“The actions depicted in this photo are deplorable, do not represent the values of the National Guard and will not be tolerated. These duties are sacred. America’s fallen deserve nothing less than our deepest respect,” Grass said in a Facebook post.
The Army National Guard has initiated its own investigation of the matter, Jon Anderson, a National Guard Bureau spokesman, told Stars and Stripes.
Harrison has received threats via social media and the National Guard has taken measures to ensure her safety, the Wisconsin National Guard said.
Harrison could not be reached by Stars and Stripes for comment.