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Staged Photo Disrespects, Hurts

A photo emailed to Air Force Times early this week is making waves in the military community – and for all the wrong reasons.

The photo, which you can see here and read about here, shows a group of Airmen posing around a metal casket, the kind typically used for dignified transfers after a servicemember is killed overseas. Inside the casket is another Airman posing with a noose around his neck, pretending to be dead.

From the perspective of an Army spouse who knows more than her share of Gold Star wives and families, the disrespect displayed in this photo is horrifying.

When I think of the dignified transfer case, I envision my friends standing there at Dover Air Force base doing their best to remain strong as their loved ones are slowly carried by in it. I remember the pain and sorrow of every military memorial I've been to,  every photo of a widow crying over a grave site at Arlington National Cemetery I've seen, every resounding, echoing sound of "Taps" I've heard. And that's just me -- someone who has never lost a family member to war.

Think how those who have must feel.

My husband, equally horrified by the sheer stupidity and cluelessness displayed by these Airmen, last night said that most of them have likely never experienced any of the feelings and memories I associate with that case. They may have never seen war, never transferred a war casualty or never known any fallen servicemember.

It’s a pity that, thanks to an investigation of the photo and a whole lot of unpleasant publicity and posts such as mine, they now get to learn the weight of their mistake in a way devoid of honor but full of pain for others.

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