Picture of Air Force airmen fooling around with casket sparks investigation
December 16th, 2011
BY Philip Caulfield
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Air Force officials are investigating a tasteless photo showing airmen clowning around with a coffin like the ones used to transfer America's war dead, according to a report in an Air Force newspaper.
The picture, taken at an Air Force training school in Fort Lee, Va., in August, shows more than a dozen fatigue-clad airmen posing around a colleague playing dead inside the open casket.
The “body” is wrapped in chains and a there is noose around his neck.
The 16 airmen, a mix of junior staff and noncommissioned officers, are from Lackland Air Force Base, Tex., according to the Air Force Times, which first reported the investigation.
They were in Fort Lee training to load and unload military aircraft cargo.
They were not learning the process of transporting dead soldiers, the Times said.
Though the meaning of the photo and the message are not known, Air Force brass said the casket gag was disrespectful to the families of fallen service members.
"We take this matter seriously," Air Force Secretary Michael Donley told the Times.
"It saddens me that this may cause additional grief to the families of our fallen warriors."
Army Staff Sgt. Elias Bonilla, who sent the Times the photo on Monday after a friend spotted it on Facebook, said the pic suggested the Air Force wasn’t serious about the solemn task of transporting heroes killed in action.
"I cannot help but picture the faces of my dead (colleagues) that we (dragged) out of burning vehicles, dug out from collapsed buildings," Bonilla told the Times.
Several outraged commenters on the Times' website called for the airmen to be discharged.
"How dare you!" wrote Deedy Salie, who said she was military widow. "My husband came home in one of those boxes, not on his own two feet like these disgraceful people will…shame on you!"
The Air Force said its investigation would take about two weeks.
With News Wire Services