Navy veteran defends baby photo after critics call it ‘disrespectful’ and ‘disgusting’

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VIRGINIA BEACH, Virginia -- A photographer is defending the photo she has taken of a newborn baby.

Critics on Facebook have slammed Vanessa Hicks’ photograph, calling it disrespectful, rude, tacky and even disgusting.

But Hicks is standing behind her work.

So what kind of baby photo could elicit such a strong reaction from so many people?

The image shows the baby sleeping in an American flag being held at either end by the hands of someone in a military uniform.

Hicks said when she came up with the idea for the photo she meant for it to stand for pride and honor.

“I do believe that this picture right here shows what it means to be an American,” Hicks told WTKR.

But a Facebook page titled ‘You Call Yourself a Photographer’ has reposted that photo and writing in part:

This flag is a symbol of everything my son died for many years ago. It was of the utmost honor to have a flag laid upon your coffin as my son did. That honor is taken away when disrespectful photographers throw our flag code out the window. Although you can't see it anymore, I posted another picture from this same photographer a few minutes ago who had a naked baby on that same flag I laid upon my son's casket. She allowed that baby to pee and poop on that flag that is meant to honor our fallen soldiers. Disgusting.

Hicks, who joined the Navy herself right out of school, says she is now getting messages from ‘cyber bullies’ but she says she is not backing down.

“That flag, the uniform, that baby–exactly what every service member is out there fighting [for],” she told WTKR.

Hick served for four years and is now married to a sailor who is deployed.

She said this photo represents everything she and other sailors have fought for.

“I hope that other people want this pose,” she told WTKR. “I will absolutely do it and share it proudly.”

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41 comments

  • Darth Intern (@DarkSideIntern)

    I wonder how many of those critics voted in the last election. It’s a beautiful picture that is everything this country stands for. I wonder if they go after those garment manufacturers who make shorts and other wearables featuring the American flag. Likely not, as the critics in this case are simply bullies who have nothing else of interest in their lives.

  • Larry

    I am former military (Navy) and I see absolutely nothing wrong with that photo. Thank you, Mrs. Hicks, for taking and posting that photo.

  • Amber

    This photo is absolutely touching and if my husband were in the military, this is a photo I’d want as well. My father is a retired Senior Chief Nuclear ET of 21yrs from the Navy and there is nothing wrong with this photo. Unless this was a flag for a fallen soldier then I don’t see where the problem is. This is showing the pride for service and what military families hold most dear when the have to leave for 3 months, 6 months, or even over a year to defend our country. Shame on all who think this is disgusting, it’s absolutely beautiful!

    • James

      I agree. I’m retired Navy with 23 years and find the photo very touching. For me it shows the reason career military men and women stay, for a secure future for our children.

  • Jacy Newcomer

    I love this picture! My husband served in the Army for 8 years and was eventually discharged due to hearing loss. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this pic. This is what our military personnel fight for. They fight for our children, or friends, our neighbors our country! People need to stop worrying about such minuscule things. And the lady that said the baby pooped and peed on the flag, really? I understand you miss your son and are still hurt but direct your anger at the people who killed him not at a photographer taking an amazing picture of a baby.

  • Taylor

    That baby is wrapped in a blanket of freedom. His father helps to protect that freedom every night he is away from his family, and deserves to honor his child and his country with such a beautiful picture.

  • Ronda Rae Franklin

    I think the photograph is brilliant & beautiful. A compassionate and passionate reminder of why it is we are “Born Free”.

  • Jaycee Luna

    I think this picture is beautiful…Mrs.Hicks you did a wonderful job and keep up the good work! People that are criticizing your work obviously don’t see the beautiful message in this photo and they are also very ignorant because if you are going to bash this picture than bash all the clothing companies that come out with American flag bikinis, shorts, tops, underwear and everything else!

  • Jessi

    This picture is beautiful and shows pride for our country. That child is why more then half of our military fight, for their family. Thank you for the picture Mrs. Hicks. And for your and your husbands service!

    • julie

      America doesn’t support abortion it supports women’s rights. I don’t believe in abortion as a form of birth control but I understand some situations where it’s important to have that choice.

  • Andrew

    I wouldn’t consider this disrespectful. The flag is a symbol of our nation and to artistically show it cradling a baby isn’t disrespectful. Protecting the week and helpless should be the first priority of the nation.

  • Wayne

    That is a wonderful photo and well within the First Amendment. Very Respectfully, Wayne Clark, Senior Chief Quartermaster, United State Navy, Retired.

  • david

    As someone that has deployed, and served in a Presidential Honor Guard, and as a military photographer, I kind of like the image. I would have done it in a dress uniform to give a stronger symbolic nature to it as the duty uniform looks kind of tacky.

  • Andi Hays

    To say this is “disrespectful” is very hard to swallow. First of all it was not intended to show any disrespect for our American Flag and secondly, the person holding this flag has served our country…mother currently serving. I think they have earned the right to hold our American Flag with their baby in it for a photo. It was not desecrated in any way nor was there mean spirit behind it! I think what is wrong with this countries attitude is that instead of coming together and being respectful of each other , we all fight and knit pick stupid things! We need to take that negative energy and concentrate on improving ourselves as human beings! You’re not burn with hate in your heart….you learn it! Lead by example. I love the picture. God Bless the military people serving our country!!

  • weezab

    Agree with the photographer. Beautiful representation of what that dad served in our military for! Freedom for future generations. Good for you!

  • asminaeria

    My husband is an army spec ops soldier (officer if you must know) and he did something very similar with our son. He said this is what he and his brothers fight for every day. He has the picture with him on deployments. All the men in my family are career military and not one of them thinks this is wrong. We as family members of soldiers also serve our country by supporting our soldiers at home and on deployments.

  • JJP0219

    Get a life, people! This man served OUR Country – not because he was forced to, there is no draft. He volunteered. And now that he is home & able to hold his beautiful baby, a baby he was willing to give his life to protect, and to protect you, your babies, your children’s babies, you criticize the photographer – and in doing so this brave soldier and his precious child, because a photo was taken of two things he takes great pride in, his Country (represented by the flag) and his child. And, after reading everything ai could find online, the flag was not desecrated by “poop and pee” as far as I could find. This was stated by someone writing a critical ‘hate message’ to the photographer. Where did she/he obtain such information? Was he/she present at the photography session? Does he/she have intimate knowledge from someone who was present? Let it go. This man has earned the right to have his infant photographed swaddled in the very in animate representation of the Country he offered to serve.

  • Glen

    It’s a beautiful photo!! It is not disrespecting the flag, not in the slightest. I am a veteran, an old infantryman to be exact, and it does not offend me at all. Good for her for standing up the the people whining.about nothing.

  • Carrie

    What is ‘disrespectful’ and ‘disgusting’ is that there is all this commotion over an artistic rendering of the American flag and no commotion about that very same flag being removed from public schools. If people are so supportive of the magnitude of what the American Flag represents, why does nobody fight for it to remain in the classrooms and why does nobody fight to continue to give it and it’s meaning, the respect it deserves by fighting for our American children to learn the meaning of and recite the Pledge of Allegiance every day? My sons school does and I will fight to make sure it always will. What about yours?

  • Tom S

    I think this is beautiful photo of proud parents who are veterans and showing their patriotism. Internet trolls will always exist but they’re wrong in this case. Nice job, parents!!

      • asminaeria

        Since you are tolling “petty” what is the code exactly. Oh wait you may not know. Here is a part of that code for tou. You must have missed this along with thousands of other flag/military baby photos.§ 5. Display and Use of Flag by Civilians; Codification of Rules and
        Customs; Definition.
        The following codification of existing rules and customs pertaining to the
        display and use of the flag of the United States of America is established for the use of such civilians or civilian groups or organizations as may not be required to
        conform with regulations promulgated by one or more executive departments of the
        Government of the United States. The flag of the United States for the purpose of
        this chapter shall be defined according to Sections 1 and 2 of Title 4 and Executive
        Order 10834 issued pursuant thereto.
        Yes, he is military and in a uniform but he broke no military codes. Even though his wife serves by extension of him she is still civilian. The photographer is a civilian as well. Just because you have a green monster of envy doesn’t mean you should be petty.

  • Gus Smith

    Beautifully done. I have served 40 years and 3 days in our countries military and I feel this photo depicts our country holing it’s future.

  • Cate Partridge

    I think this is an AMAZING photo – and a brilliant and touching metaphor for military parents. I’m not a huge patriot myself, but I can see the massive and beautiful symbolism in this photo. There, a baby, our greatest national resource and our future, being held in the flag – protected, if you will and supported by all it represents – behind that flag is the reason that flag has any meaning – the men and women who defend our country. The father holding the reason he fights, the soldier supporting the most precious things to him, the backing behind all we stand upon. How THIS PHOTO could EVER be seen as anything but a beautiful statement is beyond my comprehension.

  • Suzie

    At one time I was very against people wearing shirts and jewelry depicting our flag and felt it was disrespectful.There is no disrespect here. If you read the flag code the flag being used as a receptacle is against the flag code. But, I have since changed my mind when people use our flag to honor our country and the men/women who fight for it. What I see in this picture is our military, our flag and a baby (all babies) being protected by our country and our military. I only hope that those that wear clothing with our flag depicted will dispose respectfully of the items not in the garbage can.

  • Suzie

    My husband passed away in January of this year he had a military burial with the guns, flag on his coffin and taps played. I do not feel this picture is disrespectful for what it is meant to represent. The flag (our country) The military and a child protected by both.

  • Dawn Stone

    Whats wrong with the photo? The child is swaddled and I’m sure it’s wearing a nappy. I’m sure it wasn’t allowed to “pee and poop” on the flag. I find the photo adorable and touching.

  • Julie Fortner

    My husband was in the military for 10 years. I asked him how he felt about this picture and I read him the story. His reaction was, *I love it, see if you can order a print so we can support her!* so if your selling a print please let us know we want to hang it in our restaurant brewey. It’s beautiful. Thank you for serving our country!

  • Sandi

    The guy is obviously someone who has fought and put his life on the line for that flag, or, if not, is prepared to. Stop being so bloody precious. He is proud enough of that flag to swaddle his baby in it, that should be an honor to the flag. Get over yourselves.

  • Starla

    No, this photo is adorable and heart warming. A new born baby is pure love and innocence, the soldier is the protector, the flag represents the soldier’s country and devotion as the roll of the protector. The photographer did a great job I love it, I would like to have a copy of the photo.

  • Stacie Stockhoff

    This picture is beautiful and symbolizes all that our country is. I am sorry for all of those who have lost loved ones in combat but I truly don’t feel this picture takes away from that. I am from a military family and have two sons who have proudly served.

  • CJ

    Such a beautiful picture. Our soldiers fight for our country everyday, they risk their lives everyday to protect us, our children and their own children. Such a beautiful picture. Very patriotic.

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