Two Wisconsin National Guard members have lost their jobs after a photo of the soldiers smiling near an empty, flag-draped coffin popped up on social media, sparking national outrage and prompting a military investigation.
The photo, which was posted on the photo-sharing website Instagram back in February, featured 14 National Guard members posing for pictures as they trained for funeral honors duty in Arkansas. The caption of the photo read: “We put the FUN in funeral — your fearless honor guard from various states.”
One of those honor guard members was Spc. Terry Harrison. She posted the photo and was suspended by the Wisconsin National Guard in February. She was also criticized for posting a selfie, complaining about the cold weather in Wisconsin and an upcoming outdoor funeral.
Sgt. Luis Jimenez, who didn't appear in the photo, was also criticized because of the comments he posted defending it.
“She isn’t disrespecting anyone,” Jimenez wrote of Harrison, according to the Wisconsin State Journal. “It’s actually a selfless commitment she has made. These practice sessions are very long. It’s good to let loose a little. When your job constantly asked you to be serious. And no there’s no one in the casket.”
Funeral honor units attend memorial services for veterans, march with the casket and present the flag to family members.
Last week, Wisconsin National Guard Maj. Paul Rickert told the Army Times that Harrison and Jimenez were dropped from the funeral honor unit and no longer have full-time jobs with the state guard, however they are still guard members who drill on the weekends, Rickert said.
Rickert would not provide details on any further disciplinary actions, according to reports.
The head of the National Guard Bureau in Washington, D.C., ordered an investigation into the photo when it first surfaced. He called it a "disgraceful incident" and "in very poor taste." Other military officials have said it has tarnished the guard's image, Army Times reports.