Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said it’s an “outrage” that a now-suspended National Guard member posted photos making light of military funerals online.
“To me, it’s just completely unacceptable,’ the Republican governor told WISN-TV in Milwaukee. “It’s an outrage. It’s unfathomable to me that people who are not just service members, but who were picked to be in this highly specialized area, wouldn’t be sensitive enough to realize just how awful that is.”
Spc. Terry Harrison of Wisconsin’s 1st Battalion, 147th Aviation Regiment in Madison, was suspended from her duties on the Funeral Honor Guard for posting the photos. Other soldiers are under investigation.
The first photo shows Harrison with a folded flag in the background accompanied by the caption: “It’s so damn cold out. Why have a funeral outside? Somebody’s getting a jacked up flag.”
The second is from her recent graduation of training for honors at funerals, showing soldiers gathered around a flag-covered casket, smiling, hugging and otherwise goofing off.
According to WISN, the casket in the photo was empty at the time the photo was taken, but some online are angry about the accompanying caption: “We put the FUN in funeral.”
Maj. Gen. Donald Dunbar, Wisconsin’s adjutant general, said he was appalled by the photos and ordered an investigation into the matter.
“We don’t excuse or condone the pictures or the comments,” Maj. Paul Rickert told WISN. “We take it very seriously and expect our funeral honors teams to treat the veterans and fallen service members that they incur with the respect and honor they deserve.”
Rickert confirmed Harrison has been getting threats online and by phone and that measures are being taken to protect her, calling it unacceptable to make threats against a service member.
Rickert added that social media awareness is part of guard members’ annual training, but the guard doesn’t prevent soldiers from using it.
“It’s an expression of free speech,” Rickert said. “However, again, we expect soldiers and airmen to conduct themselves professionally and honorably. They’re representing not only ourselves but also the National Guard.”
A Vietnam War veteran said the changing times and universal availability of social media makes stunts like the National Guard photos too easy to carry out.
“Had this been 25, 30 years ago, or during the Vietnam War, we never would have known anything,” Jeff Dentice told WISN. “You never would have caught it.”