UPDATE: Second Guard member suspended over photo furor - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

UPDATE: Second Guard member suspended over photo furor

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MILWAUKEE (AP) - A second Wisconsin National Guard member has been suspended in an investigation stemming from a photograph showing soldiers clowning around by an empty flag-draped casket, a Guard spokesman said Wednesday.

Sgt. Luis Jimenez was suspended because of comments he posted on social media defending the photo, which was taken at a guard training facility, spokesman Maj. Paul Rickert said.

"He has been suspended from his duties as a funeral honors team member until the investigation is complete," Rickert said.

Jimenez' comments have since been taken down, but in a screen shot confirmed by Rickert he defended the woman who originally posted the photo.

"She isn't disrespecting anyone," Jimenez wrote of Spc. Terry Harrison. "... It's actually a selfless commitment she has made. These practice sessions are very long. It's good to let loose a little. When your job constantly asked you to be serious. And no there's no one in the casket."

Jimenez was Harrison's task leader, or supervisor, in the Madison, Wis.-based 1st Battalion, 147th Aviation Regiment. Harrison also was suspended.

No public telephone number for Jimenez could be found. Rickert said he would pass on a message from The Associated Press seeking comment.

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."

The photo, which originally was posted on Instagram, has sparked a furor online, drawing angry comments from people calling the picture disrespectful of veterans and those killed in action.

Rickert wouldn't say whether any other Wisconsin soldiers would be reprimanded, saying he couldn't comment while the investigation was ongoing.

Gen. Frank J. Grass, head of the National Guard Bureau in Washington, D.C., said Wednesday he ordered the investigation to what he called a "disgraceful incident."

"This image is in very poor taste and clearly does not represent the values of the National Guard," he said in a statement. "I am confident the Army National Guard will quickly resolve this matter and take swift and appropriate action. Funeral duties are sacred and America's fallen deserve nothing less than our deepest respect."

Attempts to reach Harrison by phone and email have been unsuccessful. The National Guard has taken steps to protect her after she received death threats through social media and other means, Rickert said.
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MADISON, Wis. (WKOW) -- A Wisconsin National Guard Soldier has been pulled from duty on the state's 12-member, funeral honor guard team after posting controversial photos on a social media account.



Because she's still being paid, as a guard member, she'll still be performing other duties," said Major Paul Rickert, the Wisconsin National Guard's Director fo Communications.

Rickert said Major General Donald Dunbar, the head of Wisconsin's National Guard, has called for an investigation into the photos posted by Spc. Terry Harrison.

"It's not possible for me to give a timeline" on the investigation, Rickert said.

One photo depicts Harrison, along with national guard soldiers from other states, posing in front of a casket with a flag draped over it. Underneath the photo is the caption "We put the FUN in funeral."

Rickert said the photo was taken in Arkansas where guard soldiers were training. Because the group was in training, the casket in the picture was empty. He did not know if any of the other national guard members in the photo are being investigated as well.

"We're only conducting an investigation into our funeral honors team and (Harrison)," he said.

The second photo depicts Harrison with an American flag partially visible behind her. A comment underneath the photo appears to express displeasure with the funeral guard's duties to perform a ceremony in the cold.

"We were deeply saddened and outraged by the photos and comments," Rickert said. He added the investigation into the photos is seeking to determine when and where the second picture was taken.

"We expect our funeral honors guard to conduct themselves professionally and treat the families of fallen service members and veterans with the utmost care and respect," Rickert said. "So it's very concertinaing this took place."

"For all guard members, as a whole, we expect them to conduct themselves professionally, ethically and morally when they're out and about in public," he said.

"That does not change when they go online," Rickert added, in reference to national guard soldiers' social media accounts.

Bob Simonis, a veteran who served 27 years in the military and now performs in military funerals as part of the Madison Veterans Firing Squad, said he was disappointed to see Harrison's pictures Tuesday afternoon.

"I'd say 99.9 percent of us, probably more than that, do it properly," he said. "None of us are there to disrespect the veteran."

"I don't understand why the photo, and making a comment about it being so cold," Simonis said.

"It's always cold, It's going to be cold out there. It's winter," he said. "If you don't want to do it in the winter then don't do it."

Rickert said the soldier has received a lot of blowback about the photos since they came to light Monday.

"The soldier has received threats over social media and via her phone," he said.

"While we don't condone the pictures or comments, we also cannot condone threats of violence towards service members or their families," Rickert said. "We ask people take that into consideration."

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MADISON, Wis. (WXOW) -- UPDATE: The Wisconsin National Guard soldier who is at the center of several photos posted on social media sites is suspended from funeral honors following a large negative backlash by the public. 

The Wisconsin National Guard  said in a statement Tuesday morning that the photos appeared on a social media site belonging to Spc. Terry Harrison of the Madison based 1st Battalion, 147th Aviation Regiment. 

An investigation is underway regarding the photos.  One of the photos posted on social and media outlets shows a group of soldiers in various poses around a flag-draped coffin. The caption under the photo says "We put the FUN in funeral --your fearless honor guard from various states ..." The photo, according to the Guard, occurred at the Professional Education Center training facility in North Little Rock, Arkansas.

The caption on another photo complains about the cold weather for an upcoming military funeral and that it may lead to a poor folding of the U.S. flag.

In the statement, Major Paul Rickert, the Wisconsin National Guard's public affairs director, said the Guard expects these details be handled with professionalism and honor.

"A military funeral is the final show of respect for our veterans and their families, and we take that solemn duty very seriously," Rickert said. "The very name 'military funeral honors' underscores the importance we ascribe - both as the military and society at large - to such solemn occasions. These photos and comments do not appear to align with those values."

"We expect all of our Soldiers and Airmen to live by a core set of values, in word and deed," Maj. Gen. Donald P. Dunbar, the Wisconsin adjutant general 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."

In the wake of the release of the photos, the Guard is taking steps for the safety of Spc. Harrison following several threats made on social media platforms.


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