DENVER (AP/CBS4) – A photo posted on Instagram that appeared to show a soldier deliberately avoiding saluting the flag touched off a military investigation and a storm of criticism.
Fort Carson officials issued a statement Wednesday saying they are aware of a social media post allegedly made by Pfc. Tariqka Sheffey indicating she stayed in her car to avoid a flag ceremony and they are looking into the situation. Sheffey is assigned to the 59th Quartermaster Company, 43rd Sustainment Brigade, which provides supplies and support to soldiers.
“I was a little bit disgusted, as a soldier myself I think it’s incredibly disrespectful,” said solider Matt Paulsen.
Comments posted with the photo showing a female soldier in uniform relaxing in a car said, “This is me laying back in my car hiding so I don’t have to salute the (5 p.m. flag ceremony).” Her comments also told people to keep any angry responses to themselves. The story was first reported by the Army Times.
The initial post was later taken down.
The picture was taken during a retreat ceremony, one of two events per day that requires soldiers to stop what they’re doing to salute the flag in an act of tradition and military courtesy.
“Retreat is an evening ceremony where we honor the soldiers and the flag,” said Col. Heidi Hoyle. “Customs and courtesies are part of a soldiers’ everyday life.”
According to the Department of Defense Uniform Code of Military Justice on social media posted on the web, soldiers are required to refrain from posting any comments or visual images that could hurt the military and ask permission before sending out any sensitive information. Cases are decided on a case-by-case basis. Punishment for social media violators could range from a letter of reprimand to a court-martial, depending on the severity of the violation.
“It is important that all soldiers know that once they log on to a social media platform, they still represent the Army. The best way to think about it is, if you wouldn’t say it in formation or to your leader’s face, don’t say it online.” the manual warns. “Soldiers using social media need to know that the enemy is watching,”
Fort Carson officials said Wednesday they will continue to educate soldiers on standards and discipline and appropriate professional conduct on social media. Officials from Fort Carson reviewed the military’s social media policies at a news conference on Wednesday, but refused to discuss the investigation.
Ami Neiberger-Miller, spokeswoman for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, which has helped 44,000 people who have lost loved ones since 1994, said Wednesday thousands of people have lost their lives fighting for the American flag.
“I think any patriotic person would find this offensive,” she said.
Neiberger-Miller said this is the second serious incident in a week. Last week, two Wisconsin National Guard members were suspended in an investigation stemming from a photograph showing soldiers clowning around by an empty flag-draped casket at a guard training facility.
The photograph shows soldiers mugging for the camera around the empty casket. It shows 14 men and women posing, some lightheartedly. Two pairs of men hug playfully, another man has his back turned and is pointing off in the distance, and a kneeling woman flashes a peace sign.
The caption reads, “We put the FUN in funeral – your fearless honor guard from various states.”
Fort Carson spokeswoman Dani Johnson said Sheffey wasn’t available for comment on Wednesday and attempts to reach the Wisconsin soldiers have been unsuccessful.
– By Steven K. Paulson, AP Writer
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