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Soldier Instagrams About Avoiding Flag Salute, Stirs Controversy

An Instagram photo that appeared to show a soldier deliberately avoiding saluting the flag touched off a military investigation and a storm of criticism.

Base officials issued a statement Wednesday saying they are aware of a social media post allegedly made by Pfc. Tariqka Sheffey. Sheffey is a private first class, which is the lowest private in chain of command. She provides supplies and support to soldiers.

The photo’s caption read, "This is me laying back in my car hiding so I don't have to salute the (5 p.m. flag ceremony)."

Sheffey even appeared to realize what sort of firestorm she might ignite since the post continues, in all caps: "KEEP ALL YOUR ‘THATS SO DISRESPECTFUL/HOWRUDE/ETC.’ COMMENTS TO YOURSELF cuz, right now, IDGAFFFF."

The story was first reported by the Army Times, which was able to capture the photo before it was taken down.

Fort Carson spokeswoman Dani Johnson said Sheffey wasn't available for comment Wednesday. Though she posted a video on Instagram Tuesday night saying, "I seriously just want to say thank you to everybody who stood up for me today, like seriously. That s--- to me was not that serious. I am not a disrespectful soldier and I really appreciate you all," she said.

This is at least the second case of soldiers being called disrespectful for social media posts this month. Earlier, a group of Army National Guard members in Arkansas was called to task for posting a picture of them clowning around next to a flag-draped coffin.

According to the Department of Defense Uniform Code of Military Justice on social media posted on the web, soldiers are required to refrain from posting any comments or visual images that could hurt the military and ask permission before sending out any sensitive information.

Cases are decided on a case-by-case basis. Punishment for social media violators could range from a letter of reprimand to a court-martial, depending on the severity of the violation.

Fort Carson officials said Wednesday they will continue to educate soldiers on standards and discipline and appropriate professional conduct on social media. Officials from Fort Carson reviewed the military's social media policies at a news conference on Wednesday, but refused to discuss the investigation.

— Mel Bailey with The Associated Press