By now, you’ve probably heard of Army Pfc. Tariqka Sheffey. The soldier set off an internet firestorm when she rather foolishly posted a selfie to her Instagram account, sheffeynation, with the caption, “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.”
Reaction to Sheffey’s flaunting of her blatant disrespect to the Army and to the flag was mixed. Some people thought Sheffey should be kicked out. But a good number of people, including bloggers like Jim Treacher, defended her saying that everyone in the military avoids being outside at 1700 to salute the flag, and her mistake was just posting it online. Give her an NJP (non-judicial punishment) and call it a day.
But there’s a little problem with just shrugging off Sheffey’s selfie. It isn’t the only time she’s posted disrespectful photos of her slacking off in uniform to her Instagram account. This photo surfaced Tuesday, with the caption, “Your tax dollars allow me to sit in my car and do this all day! Respect the name though; SHEFFEYNATION, do what you want with the uniform LOL.”
Should a soldier who repeatedly shows poor judgment and a lack of respect for the flag of the United States of America really be allowed to continue to serve? Absolutely not. Sheffey should be dishonorably discharged. Too harsh? Consider that Sheffey’s response to the controversy didn’t even include a proper apology:
“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.”
This isn’t just about Sheffey avoiding the 1700 salute. It’s about Sheffey’s utter lack of discipline, respect and good judgment. Her actions don’t just reflect poorly on her but on her unit and the United States Army. She has posted disrespectful photos on social media multiple times and can’t even be bothered to apologize for it. And if she feels that she is an example of a respectful soldier, then I’d sure hate to see what she considers to be disrespectful.
This is also a larger problem than just with Tariqka Sheffey. Service members evidently feel that it’s acceptable to post disrespectful pictures on social media, and time and time again they merely receive wrist slaps. National Guard members posted photos online of themselves posing jokingly around a flag-draped coffin, with one soldier in particular posting a horrible selfie before a funeral saying that a gold-star family would receive a “jacked-up flag” for having the funeral in cold weather. Air Force Staff Sergeant Cherish Byers posted a selfie of her kissing the POW/MIA figure. And now we have Sheffey flaunting her lack of respect for the flag and the uniform.
It’s time for the military to send a message — a harsh one — to get the point across that disrespecting the military so blatantly is unacceptable. Shrugging off these actions with an NJP because it’s no big deal — especially when, as in Sheffey’s case, it happens multiple times — will only ensure that it continues to happen. Why should service members take this seriously when the military itself doesn’t?