VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. -- A photographer and Navy veteran is facing online criticism after she posted a professional photo to Facebook of her friend, also a Navy veteran, holding a newborn baby wrapped in an American flag.
Prior to making the picture public, she and the friend's family were thrilled over the photo.
"I mean, before all this, they loved it," Hicks told ABC13. "The mom shared it on her Facebook page. The grandmother was there and loved it. I had gotten nothing but positive feedback," she said.
But once Hicks shared it on her own Facebook page, it was quickly picked up by another page -- and subsequently lambasted by many for its content.
The Facebook page You Call Yourself a Photographer? shared her photo, with a scathing caption that read, in part,
The flag is not a prop.
I repeat: THE FLAG IS NOT A PROP
To use the American flag in such a way is disrespectful, rude, tacky, disgusting, and against the U.S. Flag Code.
The page's post currently has more than 500 comments -- some taking offense, many others coming to the photographer's defense.
Hicks told ABC13 she later complained to Facebook for cyber bullying, but to no avail.
"It made me second guess what was Facebook's policy on harassment if this, a page that is created to bash, to go on people's business pages and bash them. If that's not harassment, then what is?" she told the station.
Hicks told WTKR she was not only the victim of ferocious comments on that page, but also was receiving direct messages and comments on other works on her page.
She spent "[a] day of crying, a day of second guessing myself as a photographer, as a professional, as a person, as an American, as a veteran," as a result, she told WTKR.
But Hicks now stands by her photo, saying she believes it represents everything America is about.
"I stood up for the picture. To me, that is what being an American is about." she wrote in a lengthy Facebook post Tuesday. She added that she could have "let the hatred of some cyber bullies get to me," but chose instead to remain proud of the photograph.
According to WTKR Hicks joined the Navy out of high school, serving for four years, and is now a Navy wife. Her husband is currently deployed.
She told multiple outlets she hopes the photo inspires others to do a similar pose with the flag.
The photo currently serves as her Facebook page's cover photo.