Veterans, service members, photographers, civilians and military spouses have separated into 2 groups lately. Those who are offended by photos using the U.S. flag and those who feel some patriotic photos are touching and beautiful.
The online discussion started with this image.
The Navy Times reported last month that a Navy veteran, now professional photographer was proud of her photo of a newborn cradled in a flag held by his active-duty father.
“I took a stand by not taking the picture down as this group wanted me to do because I did not feel I was disrespecting our flag in any way,” Vanessa Hicks said in an interview with the Navy Times. “Service members, veterans and their families saw the photo, saw the intent behind, and respect it. They have shown overwhelming support. And I think the group that first threatened me now realize they messed with the wrong group.”
The photo, which some call controversial, isn’t that original. Military babies are often photographed with their serving parent’s uniform, including cover, boots and dog tags. Look at all the cute baby photos that have been submitted for MilitaryShoppers monthly photo contests. I’ve seen countless baby photos on Facebook that feature newborns sleeping on a military uniform, usually near the patch with their surname.
But on Facebook, Hicks’ photo, which was featured on Fox News and ABC’s Good Morning America, ignited a debate about respect for the U.S. flag and who gets to wrap themselves in Old Glory.
The U.S. Flag Code is often quoted in this debate. Here’s the line that everyone refers to:
The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery.
That’s most likely the line that managers of the Facebook group, “You Call Yourself A Photographer?” were referring to when they posted the controversial photo.
The flag is not a prop. I repeat: The flag is not a prop,” the group posted. “To use the American flag in such a way is disrespectful, rude, tacky, disgusting and against the U.S. Flag Code.
So what about athletes? They wrap themselves in a flag after a victory. They are frequently photographed with the U.S. flag for photo shoots.
What about women wearing the flag and nothing else? A quick Google search will give the results I’m referring to. You can also purchase these types of pictures on many popular stock image websites.
What about wounded veterans?
The U.S. flag belongs to every American, regardless if they volunteered for military service or not. We can say that we don’t want the U.S. flag to be used as a photo prop, but the fact of the matter is that this prop is not the same as a pink tutu, white angel wings or a miniature teddy bear. The U.S. flag is an extensive of our country. It represents the USA. Its stripes and its stars trigger a sea of complicated emotions in many people, but especially among veterans and military families.
Is the flag a prop? Yes.
Is that OK? Yes.
As military families we deeply understand the emotions of the U.S. flag. That’s why it’s so near and dear to our hearts. That’s why we photograph our military children with it. And that’s why we will continue to photograph our children with it.