Last month, a national controversy erupted after images of Marine scout snipers posing with an “SS” flag in Afghanistan went viral online.
The flag showed the notorious Nazi SS organization’s logo, something that had been used quietly in the scout sniper community for years. The “lightening bolt” SS logo was a nod toward the scout sniper title, with the bolts also depicting the swift way the Marines strike at distance. Its use deeply troubled some people, however, considering the darker World War II-era things it represented.
Actor Michael Ornstein was one of those struck by the story. A cast member on the hit show “Sons of Anarchy,” he said he has a deep appreciation for the U.S. military, and was troubled that judgment was passed on the Marines so quickly. He believes the use of the logo came from a “complicated perspective,” without a full understanding for what it represented, he said in a phone interview.
“It’s pretty difficult out there for these guys and women, and I think people should remember that and stay very positive and supportive,” he said of those in the military.
Ornstein is also known for his artwork, some of which can be seen here. He reached out to me and said he’d like to assist the scout sniper community in coming up with a new logo if they’re interested. He proposed this as a start:
In a follow-up email, he added the following:
“Images are a very potent tool and have been used since the first spark of the human timeline. Images transcend language and cut to the core of our communication. As an artist, I understand the power of images and symbols. When I first saw the story of the Scout Sniper unit using the “SS” symbol on their flag, frankly, I was concerned that WWII Veterans would see this flag and be negatively affected by seeing it, harkening back to what they fought against during WWII.
Through communicating online on this matter with civilians and Active Duty and Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, I was educated that the “SS” lightning bolts on their flag symbolized “Scout Snipers.” This made me think about where else I’ve seen that symbol and I remembered seeing the band Kiss play live when I was a kid and how they also used two lightning bolts to represent the double S’s in their logo, blasting out towards the audience in bright lights and smoke. I know that perspective is a tricky thing and something used in Rock and Roll vs. something used in the military carries different meanings. That said, not knowing the actual intent of the men in the unit for using the SS insignia, I’m giving the benefit of doubt that it wasn’t an actual Nazi intent.
All I knew for sure was that these men were Marines and that maybe they could use a new flag. So, I took up the initiative to work up my own design for a flag that I hoped might be agreeable to the men of this unit. The first thing I did was to talk to a real good friend of mine who happens to be a sniper and he told me what him and his friends think about in the field is “knowing that G-d is watching over them.” So, I worked from that concept and came up with an eye that would symbolize “The Eye of G-d” protectively watching over the men of the unit, staring directly into the face of the enemy. I kept the lighting bolts to symbolize “Scout Snipers”, but I altered them a bit. I’m offering this image as an American artist, hoping it’s honorable and badass enough to be acceptable to the men of this unit. I’m offering it out of deep respect and as a gesture of Thanks for what the men in this Scout Sniper unit and what the Military Community at large, along with their families at home, are tasked with bravely accomplishing each and every day.”
How about it, Marines?