"Appalled" ... Lindsey Stone at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery.
Two young women have been placed on unpaid leave from their jobs after posting a photo on Facebook that stirred up controversy.
The photo shows one of the women at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, US, giving the finger beside a sign calling for silence and respect.
Lindsey Stone, 30, and Jamie Schuh, who took the photo, were placed on unpaid leave by non-profit organisation, LIFE, which helps adults with special needs, the Cape Cod Time reported on Wednesday.
LIFE's chief financial officer said the company is "appalled", while a 'Fire Lindsey Stone' page on Facebook so far has more than 14,000 likes.
Stone and Schuh, both from Massachusetts, said in a statement to The Boston Herald that they "never meant any disrespect" for service members and had only intended it as a "visual pun" in response to the sign, not the location or the people represented there.
Stone's father, 61-year-old retired ironworker Peter Stone, told Boston Herald columnist Jessica Heslam that he was "appalled" when he first saw the photo. "I certainly don't condone anything like that," he said.
When asked if his daughter regrets the photo, Peter Stone said "very much so."
Stone apparently posted it on her Facebook page last month as a joke, but quickly sparked outrage from people who saw it, according to Gawker.
The photo and comments were removed from her page, but Gawker published a screen shot of Stone's Facebook response to the negative comments.
"Whoa whoa whoa ... wait," Stone wrote on October 20, according to the screen shot on Gawker. "This is just us, being the douchebags that we are, challenging authority in general ... OBVIOUSLY we meant NO disrespect to people that serve or have served our country."
Here is their full statement to The Boston Herald:
"We sincerely apologise for all the pain we have caused by posting the picture we took in Washington DC on Facebook. While posted on a public forum, the picture was intended only for our own amusement. We never meant any disrespect to any of the people nationwide who have served this country and defended our freedom so valiantly. It was meant merely as a visual pun, intending to depict the exact opposite of what the sign said, and had absolutely nothing to do with the location it was taken or the people represented there. We never meant to cause any harm or disrespect to anyone, particularly our men and women in uniform. We realise it was in incredibly poor taste, and are deeply sorry for the offence we have caused.
"We also sincerely apologise to LIFE, Inc. It is an amazing organisation that provides invaluable services to adults with learning and developmental disabilities. We are beyond remorseful that our actions have caused them such undue public scrutiny. The disrespect implied by our picture has nothing at all to do with LIFE's mission statement or values. We regret having caused any suffering to the staff members, residents, families and friends. Again, we very sincerely apologise to everyone who took offence to the photo. We realise that it was an ignorant and distasteful thing for us to do, but we truly meant no harm. We are deeply sorry."