Navy veteran Vanessa Hicks, a Virginia Beach photographer whose website is filled with sweet images of babies and their parents, shot the picture of the sailor and his baby and posted it to her Facebook page.
"I do believe that this picture right here shows what it means to be an American," Hicks told CNN affiliate WTKR
."That flag, the uniform, that baby -- exactly what every service member is out there fighting."
Not everyone agreed with Hicks, herself a Navy wife whose husband is deployed.
A Facebook page titled "You call yourself a photographer?" posted her photo and said that the use of the flag as a prop was a desecration -- and a bad picture.
The U.S. Flag Code does state that the 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," according to a Congressional Research Service report (PDF)
Nor should it be "used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything."
The threatening private messages, which she has reported to Facebook, saddened her. But she decided to keep posting the picture and to take pictures of other members of the military who request the same picture with their babies and the flag.
Most people posting to the critical Facebook page disagree with the criticism of the picture. Wrote one poster, "I am a veteran and find this picture beautiful. Clearly the military member loves his country and baby."
"The photo is making a point," another photo fan posted. "The flag represents our republic, the republic is supporting our future. There is nothing disrespectful about this use of our flag. It is beautiful."