A group of soldiers having “fun” around an empty casket has led to the suspension of a Wisconsin National Guard member who posted a photo of the soldiers to her Instagram account, after the Guard declared the soldiers with empty casket snap “distasteful” and “offensive.”
For Spc. Terry Harrison, of the Madison-based Wisconsin National Guard, the consequences could be far worse than an admonition from military brass. The empty casket photo has led to outrage from former soldiers and even death threats against Harrison.
The Wisconsin National Guard is now taking steps to insure her safety.
So what caused all of the uproar? Two photos that were taken as making light of military funerals. Harrison took the photo at the National Guard Bureau’s Professional Education Center in North Little Rock, Arkansas, where she and other soldiers who appear around the empty casket in one of the photos, were training as part of military funeral honors units.
Any family member of a deceased soldier or veteran is entitled to request a military funeral ceremony, which comes with the solemn honors ceremony. Soldiers in the honors units perform such tasks as carefully folding and unfolding the American flag to be draped over a soldier’s casket, according to strictly defined procedures.
With the photo of a group of soldiers in seemingly carefree, joking poses around an empty casket, Harrison wrote, “We put the FUN in funeral.”
She is a member of one such honors unit — she was in Little Rock to receive further training — so when she appeared to deriving some sort of levity from what is supposed to be the most somber of ceremonies, a wave of anger ensued.
In another Instagram snap, Harrison was pictured in her car with an American flag in the background, stating that the frigid weather would result in someone receiving a “jacked up” flag.
“We have gotten quite a bit of feedback, and we have allowed people to express their outrage and concern,” said Wisconsing National Guard Spokesperson Paul Rickert. “Because the issue is as emotional as it is, we are allowing people to comment.”
Harrison, who made the mistake of posting the pic of soldiers goofing around with an empty casket, is a full-time member of the Guard, but has now been suspended, the Guard announced on Tuesday.