A soldier who hid in her car to avoid saluting the flag — and then flaunted it on Instagram — is the latest service member to come under attack via social media and be accused of dishonoring her service.
Pfc. Tariqka Sheffey, whose Instagram handle was "sheffeynation," posted a selfie with a caption that reads:
"This is me laying back in my car hiding so I don't have to salute the 1700 flag, KEEP ALL YOUR 'THATS SO DISRESPECTFUL/HOWRUDE/ETC.' COMMENTS TO YOURSELF cuz, right now, IDGAFFFF."
The image was distributed via Facebook and also sent to Army Times. Angry service members, Gold Star mothers and spouses have called for the soldier's removal from service.
"Any soldier who refuses to salute the flag is in the military for the wrong reason and should be removed by dishonorable discharge with loss of all benefits," one Facebook commenter said. "If they won't salute it, they damn sure won't fight for it."
Sheffey is a member of the 59th Quartermaster Company, 43rd Sustainment Brigade, at Fort Carson, Colo., post spokesman Dee McNutt confirmed. Fort Carson is about 75 miles south of Denver.
When asked if an investigation was under way, McNutt said, "The chain of command is aware and looking into the situation. That's really all I can say at this point."
McNutt said Fort Carson learned of the photo after receiving a number of complaints.
The online outrage has quickly turned to hate, with a torrent of abusive comments, racial slurs and threats being made against the young soldier.
Sheffey responded with a video Tuesday on Instagram and expressed regret. But she stopped short of apologizing for her actions. Her account is now deleted.
"I seriously just want to say thank you to everybody who stood up to me today, like seriously. That s--- to me was not that serious. I am not a disrespectful soldier and I really appreciate you all."
Attempts to reach Sheffey for comment via e-mail were not successful. Fort Carson spokeswoman Dani Johnson said Sheffey wasn't available for comment.
Ami Neiberger-Miller, spokeswoman for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, which has helped 44,000 people who have lost loved ones since 1994, said Wednesday that thousands of people have lost their lives fighting for the American flag.
"I think any patriotic person would find this offensive," she said.
Less than a day after Sheffey's Instagram posting went viral, new Instagram accounts were created bearing Sheffey's image.
These posts included even more controversial photos — one of a burning flag. The flag burning was posted on an Instagram account "teriqkasheffey," which misspells the soldier's first name. Another account used her photo, but misspelled her name differently: "teriqasheffy." That post included a number of expletives including "f--- the flag" and "f--- the army."
Many people assumed these were more posts from the private. But a Fort Carson official said it is likely these are posers looking to incite more outrage online.
It is "strongly believed that there are copycats posing as her, using some of her info to post more nonsense," the official said.
The images contradict the tone of Sheffey's video after her initial photo started gaining widespread criticism.
This marks the third time in less than two weeks in which a photo of service members has sparked controversy on social media. Several National Guard members have been suspended from funeral honors detail in light of a photo showing them comically posing around a flag-draped casket during training. An investigation is ongoing.
Air Force Staff Sgt. Cherish Byers is also the subject of an investigation after a 3-year-old photo of her tongue-kissing a Prisoner of War-Missing in Action symbol went viral.
Contributing: The Associated Press