A three-year-old photo of a an Air Force staff sergeant kissing the POW-MIA symbol has gone viral, causing a severe backlash for the airman in question.
The airman has been identified as Staff Sgt. Cherish Byers, of the 92nd Security Forces Squadron at Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane, Wash., said Staff Sgt. Alex Montes, a spokesman for the 92nd Air Refueling Wing. Byers is the subject of a command-directed investigation that will determine if any disciplinary measures are warranted, Montes told Air Force Times on Friday. The picture was taken about three years ago but investigators don't yet know where it was taken.
The POW-MIA emblem is a symbol which represents US military taken as prisoners of war or listed as missing in action.
"There's absolutely no reason to have done anything like that," Marine Corps veteran Michael Kelley told The Army Times. "It goes completely against everything that we're taught in the military from Day 1. She failed herself; she's failed the Air Force and the military community as a whole by doing something that disrespectful and then having it get out to the world like that."
An investigation into the photo was launched on Friday morning, according to Stars and Stripes:
"We do not yet have all the details behind the photo, but it certainly is a concern; it's a concern any time someone shows disrespect for prisoners of war and those missing in action," Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James Cody said in a statement. "They deserve our utmost respect and we must always remember their sacrifice and the legacy they've left for us as men and women serving our nation.
"I want to make it clear that this is not a reflection of Airmen who wear this uniform; it is a case of poor judgment of one Airman … to say we are disappointed would be an understatement. We are gathering all the details and will take appropriate action at the appropriate level," he said. "Our Airmen fully understand the significance of the POW/MIA flag and the sacrifice of the men and women it honors."
It seems like the picture was taken in jest and to the 12-year-old boy who lives forever trapped inside me, perpetually trying to escape via fart jokes, I can see where this might be seen as a funny thing to do on a whim with your dorky friends egging you on for a picture. But unfortunately, we live in the age of digital pile-ons, and one foolish mistake can lead to tens of thousands of people calling for your head.
Now let's all close our eyes and listen our mother's voices in our heads, lecturing us about the dangers of the Internet, how nothing is ever truly private and how we should always, always think twice about the pictures we take and who we share them with.