Wisconsin National Guard coffin photo sparks outrage

MADISON — A Wisconsin soldier's photo posted on social media sparked outrage nationwide and prompted a military investigation Tuesday.

The Wisconsin National Guard confirmed that a full-time funeral honor guard member posted the photo that shows a team smiling around a flag-draped casket with the caption, "We put the FUN in funeral."

Maj. Paul Rickert, a Guard spokesman said public affairs staff learned of the photo late Monday.

"The National Guard takes the responsibility for our fallen soldiers and veterans very seriously and we expect soldiers to handle it with professionalism and honor," Rickert said.

The photo was taken with an empty casket at a training facility in Arkansas, Rickert said. A second photo has drawn attention from the same social media account depicting the female soldier complaining about the cold weather in Wisconsin and an upcoming outdoor funeral.

Spc. Terry Harrison, who posted the photo on Instagram, was "indefinitely suspended," Rickert said. She is a member of the Madison-based 1st Battalion, 147th Aviation Regiment.

Rickert said the Guard does not prohibit soldiers from posting on social media, but has rules that members must "perform professionally and not dishonor the military."

By Tuesday morning, hundreds of people had posted on the Wisconsin National Guard Facebook page, many reposting the photo and expressing disgust.

Rickert said a decision was made to leave the page online, and allow anyone to vent. He said special affairs staff was monitoring the page for threats and offensive language.

"The specialist involved has been suspended pending the outcome of the investigation," Rickert said. "She has received death threats to her, and her family."

Maj. Gen. Donald Dunbar, Wisconsin's adjutant general, issued a written statement about the "controversial and distasteful" photos Tuesday.

"We expect all of our soldiers and airmen to live by a core set of values, in word and deed," Dunbar said. "I was appalled by the offensive photos and comments that appeared on this soldier's social media site regarding her duties as a funeral honor guard member."

— Nick Penzenstadler: 920-996-7226, ornpenzenstadler@postcrescent.com; on Twitter @npenzenstadler


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