Photo of airman kissing POW-MIA symbol causes uproar

A picture showing an airman tongue-kissing a Prisoner of War-Missing in Action symbol has gone viral, infuriating bloggers and veterans.

The airman has been identified as Staff Sgt. Cherish Byers, of the 92nd Security Forces Squadron at Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane, Wash., said Staff Sgt. Alex Montes, a spokesman for the 92nd Air Refueling Wing.

Byers is the subject of a command-directed investigation that will determine if any disciplinary measures are warranted, Montes told Air Force Times on Friday. The picture was taken about three years ago but investigators don't yet know where it was taken.

Byers could not be reached for comment on Friday evening. In the picture, she is wearing a senior airman's rank insignia and a blue rope. There is no indication where she is.

Byers' behavior is certainly concerning to the Air Force, Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James Cody said Friday in a statement to Air Force Times.

"It's a concern any time someone shows disrespect for prisoners of war and those missing in action," Cody said in the statement. "They deserve our utmost respect, and we must always remember their sacrifice and the legacy they've left for us as men and women serving our nation.

"I want to make it clear that this is not a reflection of airmen who wear this uniform; it is a case of poor judgment of one airman ... to say we are disappointed would be an understatement. We are gathering all the details and will take appropriate action at the appropriate level. Our airmen fully understand the significance of the POW/MIA flag and the sacrifice of the men and women it honors," Cody said.

The picture has been posted on several Facebook pages, prompting a barrage of angry responses online.

"Let me put this out there seeing as I'm an Air Force veteran ... no matter what uniform she was wearing this is disrespectful anyways," Tara Marie Murray wrote on the "Military Mind's Photos" Facebook page.

Marine Corps veteran Michael Kelley felt "blind fury and disgust" when he saw the picture, he said Friday in an inteview with Air Force Times.

"There's absolutely no reason to have done anything like that," Kelley said. "It goes completely against everything that we're taught in the military from Day 1. She failed herself; she's failed the Air Force and the military community as a whole by doing something that disrespectful and then having it get out to the world like that."

He said the picture reflects a wider "cultural problem" in the Air Force that is also evidenced by the cheating scandal involving Air Force missile officers at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont.

"It seems like one thing after another with this complete lack of respect for the basic principles of being in a military service," said Kelley, who left the Marine Corps in 2003 as a lance corporal.


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