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American Flag Baby, Vanessa Hicks

Vanessa Hicks Photography

Would you call the above photo unpatriotic? Apparently lots of people believe it to be, and the photographer behind the powerful image is fighting back against the backlash.

Professional photographer and Navy veteran Vanessa Hicks recently took photos of a military family that included Navy member Rodney Clevenger, his wife Samantha, and their newborn son. It was a beautiful photo shoot, but Hicks found herself the victim of cyber-bullying after posting the images to her Facebook page.

A Facebook group called "You call yourself a photographer?" posted the photo she took of Rodney and Samantha's newborn baby cradled in the American flag, and commenters started attacking Hicks, calling her unpatriotic and insisting that she was desecrating the flag by using it as a prop. She posted this message to her Facebook page, describing the backlash and how she refused to remove the image to placate the outraged commenters:

I woke up to see this photo was shared on a group site that is meant to bash other photographers. It was in their opinion I had disrespected our nations flag. 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. 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.

I am very well aware of our U.S Flag code. I also know exactly what desecration of a flag is. 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.

I almost let these cyber bullies get me yesterday. I could have easily deleted the picture off of my business page and ended it with that. I almost did. Then I thought, WHY? These cyber bullies would win! Hell no! So I went to the group and I stood up to them. I stood up for what I believed in! 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.

The "You call yourself a photographer?" page has since been deactivated on Facebook, and supporters of the photo have posted encouraging messages on Twitter to defend Hicks:

As for the family in the photographs, Hicks posted to her Facebook page that they have been "extremely supportive" in the midst of all this controversy.

"Please remember this was just an innocent photoshoot!" she wrote. "Forget about me, THIS FAMILY didn't deserve the hate that came from this photo! I don't know how else to thank this beautiful family for this support. I will be offering this family free photoshoots for life as the first way to thank them."

The U.S. Flag Code states that the American flag "should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. It should never be festooned, drawn back, nor up, in folds, but always allowed to fall free," nor should it be "used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything."

Do you think this photo is inappropriate or unpatriotic? 

PHOTOS: See patriotic stars rocking red, white and blue!