Photographer and Navy veteran Vanessa Hicks, says she never could have anticipated the backlash she got from a newborn photo she posted to her professional Facebook page. The photo featured a father in uniform, tenderly holding his baby in an American flag.
"I love the shot," Hicks wrote on her Facebook page. "The family loves the shot. Most of you loved the shot."
But not everyone loved the shot. Hicks wrote that she awoke Monday morning to find the photo had been shared on a group site. She says this site "is meant to bash other photographers," and they were not happy with the image.
"It was in their opinion I had disrespected our nation’s flag," she wrote on her page. "I had disrespected our country by taking this picture. Several of these people not only bashed the picture, but me, saying I should be ashamed of myself, my husband should be ashamed, etc., and I received several private messages to my business page."
But the criticism wasn't just saved for Hicks and her husband, who is currently an active member of the Navy, commenters were angry at the man in the photo as well.
"They even took it a step farther and bashed the service member in the picture, hoping he gets in trouble for participating in desecration of the flag," Hicks wrote.
While the United States Flag Code does list guidelines for how to use the flag, according to CNN, it doesn't outline measurements for punishment or enforcement.
Hicks wrote that she understands what it means to desecrate a flag, and says her photo did not cross that line.
"I am very well aware of our U.S Flag code. I also know exactly what desecration of a flag is," she wrote. "It's when you pull into ports and you see protestors with our flag and have spray painted horrible things on it. It's when you watch the news and you see other countries burning our flags, and you are a young Quartermaster scared because you know you are just a few nautical miles from that exact country."
Certain she was in the right, Hicks didn't let the criticism slide.
"I went to the group, and I stood up to them," she said "And you know what, so did so many others! A photography group saw the picture and agreed there was nothing disrespectful about it and went to the page and stood up for it. Friends, who I didn't even say anything to, somehow saw it and went and stood up for the picture."
Hicks says since her story grabbed media attention, she's had many requests from people to share the photo on their personal feeds. She’s agreed and says this is her way of standing up for the man in the photo and making a statement about the sacrifices made by the U.S. military.
"I'm not doing this for any other reason except for every service member, including this one in this photo, who has wrapped in this flag [what] so many wanted to defend, the main thing he would fight for, his family," she wrote. "The men and woman in our military, they are the true heroes. Not me, I just took a stand."