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SMA: Funeral guard photo 'tarnished' the Army

Mar. 20, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
Several soldiers in this photo were suspended from funeral honors detail after this image went viral on social media.
Several soldiers in this photo were suspended from funeral honors detail after this image went viral on social media. (Instagram photo)
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Sergeant Major of the Army Raymond Chandler, in a sit-down with Army Times, talked about his final year as SMA and his outlook on end strength reductions. (Rob Curtis/Staff)

Recent soldier buffoonery on social media has outraged not only other troops but the Army’s top enlisted official, who weighed in Thursday for the first time, saying an incident involving a flag-draped casket “tarnished the reputation of the rest of the Army.”

Sergeant Major of the Army Raymond Chandler, in a sit-down with Army Times, said the viral photo of National Guardsmen posing comically next to the casket, “really upsets me.”

“That’s the American soldier, that’s what people see,” Chandler said. “They don’t necessarily see the thousands of acts of service, and hundreds of hours of volunteering in the community. They don’t necessarily see that.”

Several National Guard members were suspended from funeral honors detail afterthe photo was posted on Instagram. It was taken at the National Guard Professional Education Center in Little Rock, Ark. The casket was used for training purposes and was empty.

Also in recent weeks, a Fort Carson, Colo., private first class hid in her car to avoid saluting the flag and then bragged about it on social media, and an Air Force staff sergeant was pictured tongue-kissing a Prisoner of War-Missing in Action symbol.

Chandler, who has spearheaded an Army-wide soldier professionalism campaign, mentioned the errant guardsmen specifically, saying he was bothered by the troops’ undignified behavior.

“From an Army perspective, first of all, it really upsets me that we have soldiers that cannot grasp what a coffin with a U.S. flag means,” he said. “You would think that every one of us would understand that thousands of service members have died, specifically over the last 12 years, and that there should be some honor and dignity bestowed upon that individual. I mean, they gave the last full measure.”

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