Wis. National Guard investigates military funeral controversy

photo-300MADISON (WITI) — The Wisconsin National Guard is investigating some controversial photos related to military funeral honors posted on social media websites. In particular, one soldier from Milwaukee is getting flack, even death threats, over the photos.

The Wisconsin National Guard became aware of controversial and distasteful photos and comments related to military funeral honors on Monday, February 17th.

One photo shows a group of Soldiers – including one from the Wisconsin Army National Guard – in Army Combat Uniforms, posing disrespectfully around a flag-draped training casket. The caption for another photo suggests that the cold weather at a military funeral may result in a poor folding of the U.S. flag to be presented.

The photos appeared on a social media site that belonged to Spc. Terry Harrison – a member of the Madison-based 1st Battalion, 147th Aviation Regiment. The group photo with the training casket was taken at the Professional Education Center, a National Guard training facility in North Little Rock, Ark.

Harrison has been indefinitely suspended from the funeral honors detail pending an investigation into the matter.

Maj. Paul Rickert, the Wisconsin National Guard‘s director of public affairs, said he understands that their content is upsetting to many.

“We take this matter very seriously and the investigation will be conducted diligently,” said Rickert.

Rickert also said the Wisconsin National Guard expects all Soldiers who carry out this sacred detail to handle it with professionalism and honor.

David Kurtz is the State Adjutant for Wisconsin’s American Legion. He says his office was also getting flooded with emotional calls and passionate comments. Kurtz, like many others, is disappointed that a sacred image reserved for dignity and honor is being made into a mockery.

Although Maj. Rickert says the group picture was taken in front of an empty training casket, Kurtz says it’s no consolation.

“It’s really of no consequence because the symbolism is there, the American flag draped over a casket. I think it’s recognized by anyone what it represents,” said Kurtz.

Donald Dubar, Wisconsin’s Adjutant General released the following statement:

“To all veterans, current serving military members, family members, those who have lost loved ones in service to our nation, and in particular our Gold Star families:

The recently revealed inappropriate photos and commentary posted to a social media site by a Soldier under my command are unacceptable. I am taking this matter very seriously. Upon learning of this incident, I ordered an investigation and we will wait until that is concluded to evaluate appropriate action.

Military funeral honors are a sacred trust, and that is why this issue has generated such a public outcry. The general public is understandably upset, and I understand the anger and response that it has caused. For those of us who wear or have worn the cloth of our nation’s uniform, this story cuts like a knife. I fully understand why so many veterans have expressed outrage. Lastly, I am acutely aware of the pain that this story must have caused for our Gold Star family members.

I deeply regret the pain this has caused, and personally apologize to the entire military family.”

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15 comments

  • Daniel

    As an former active duty Marine with 5 deployments under my belt i am absolutely disgusted with how these kids are acting. News flash, this is not a joke! You should ALL be ashamed of yourselves! Then again what should we expect from a military outfit ran by Scott Walker?

    • Harvard Review

      sorry, danniel – but this is a result of OBAMA’S america. when you see the picture of the responsible person you will know what i mean.

      and i doubt you ever served in the marines. probably never even made it through the cub scouts.

      • larrybell

        Well I did serve in the Army and I think that this is unacceptable behavior. And no. This is not Obama fault. This is the fault of a bunch of idiots who don’t know what it means to serve your country. Lets get out of this habit on blaming the wrong people all of the time. Instead of blaming Obama. I blame all of the Elected officials who forget that it is not about what you want. But it is about what We The People Want.

    • patti g

      I’ll give you a hint: this individual who took the pics and posted to instagram is not white and not a male. It’s fact – in the other pic (not posted on this site) she includes a self shot of her face. You can find it on other sites.

  • SK

    @ Daniel, As a current guardsman, I agree with your sentiment. However, this is just a few of many thousand that serve the state of Wisconsin. Please do not stereotype, as you can expect the best of the best military outfit run in the state of Wisconsin, politics aside

  • Jim Smith

    As a Retired Marine, I used to get in my dress blue uniform and volunteer stand at visitation for deceased veterans I, too, are disgusted in the behavior of these young troops. I wonder if they realize how important their representation is to the families of the fallen?

  • charlie

    This would make me think twice about a military funeral for a loved one. There are just too many guardsmen participating in those photos to let it go as one person’s bad behavior. I think they should prosecuted and given community service in a military hospital. This kind of behavior destroys any value a traditional military funeral is meant to have.

  • Patrick Wood

    As a vet and two time combat vet this is lowest of the lowest.I was active duty for fourteen years. Many times I was on the honor guard. A true honor. If this is how the national guard acts then maybe it’s time to get rid of the week end warrior. Grow up and think about what you have done.very disrespectful of this guard unit. Give them all unbecoming of a soldier.SMH.

  • Victor Rivera

    I am retired OIF Purple Heart combat wounded veteran. I am ashamed that individuals like these have leadership that allowed this photo op. EVERYONE in this photo should be article 15d dishonorable discharge NOT JUST THE PERSON WHO POSTED IT…! The death and burial of our fallen is not ‘fun’ and if they are not repremanded then their leadership should be. These are not soldiers. Shame!

  • Greg Smart

    My last year of my 20 year career I was the NCOIC of many funeral details. It was an Honor and Privledge! They should all be Art 15d and dishonorably discharged! The kids these days only think about fun and games…

  • jim

    One of the big reasons most active members want different uniforms then the guard. Tired of being associated with weekend warriors. I. Was reserve for 6 years before I came active. Night and day difference.

  • wendy stauffer

    As a military spouse of a retired us army soldier this is very disgusting and gives armed services a bad name, very disrespectful you are there to practice in case your called to do a service not make jokes while doing so. I can’t believe people have to act so immature and disrespectful they need to get kicked out

  • MFH

    I can completely understand some of the frustration my brothers and sisters are feeling. How about not trashing other services though. It makes us all look bad. I am a 4 time combat veteran and National Guardsman. I have been attached with active duty twice. It is not night and day, it is the personnel within the services who make bad decisions. The soldiers responsible are to blame. I have been in more TICS than the majority of service members from any branch during the war on terror (actual statistic). This doesn’t make me any different from any other soldier, regardless if they have deployed or not. Judge on character, not on stereotypes. My character defines the soldier I am, not the fact that I am National Guard. I joined the Guard, which was a personal decision, because I wanted to serve my community in which I grew up in as well as my country. I joined the Infantry because I am somewhat of an adventurous person. I joined the honor guard because I have lost battles, friends, and leaders. I preform honors for the families, knowing that I am bringing them closure and that they feel a sense of pride for their love one. My team is composed of 40 Guardsman who perform funeral honors with the utmost respect. So as are frustrated, I am as well. I have seen funeral honors performed by all branches of service over 400 times and I can honestly say I have never seen a detail act or even portray any sign of disrespect to the veteran or the families of the veterans.The picture is a class photo taken from the conclusion of the grueling 80 HR course taught by previous old guard members of the 3RD INF DIV. They would never condone acts of disrespect or dishonor. Is this SPC a “RE RE” for posting this picture online, of course. The other students did not post the picture, probably because it was never suppose to be seen by the general public. Also, she is the one who commented on the picture when she posted it, the other soldiers did not. As for the “jacked up flag” comment. I fold flags to perfection in 20 below or 130, practice makes perfect. Maybe she needs more training. There has only been once that a flag had so much snow on it that is was wet, and I just presented it anyway then told the FD to tell the next of kin to unfold it and let it dry at home, then we would come and re fold it for her. Long story but the moral of the story is, please don’t trash an organization because one soldier made a bad decision. Hopefully, this is a black eye the funeral honors team in Wisconsin will overcome. I am sure there are hundred soldiers that do an amazing job compared to the one who has made a poor judgment call. It’s a leaders job to ensure their soldiers are properly trained and counseled.


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