By Miriam Raftery
Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army
February 3, 2022 (San Diego) – All branches of the U.S. armed forces have begun discharging military members who have refused to get the COVID-19 vaccine. In the Army, Air Force and Navy, over 97% of all enlisted members in each service are now fully vaccinated.
“Unvaccinated soldiers present risk to the force and jeopardize readiness,” Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth said this week, when the Army announced it had begun booting out soldiers who won’t get vaccinated. She added, “Army readiness depends on Soldiers who are prepared to train, deploy, fight and win our nation's wars.”
Navy Vice Admiral William Merz agrees; he has referred to vaccines as “biological body army” at a Pentagon press conference in January.
Thousands of military members have been issued reprimands and some have been discharged in each service. Many have sought exemptions based on religious beliefs or medical reasons and are awaiting determinations made on a case-by-case basis. But very few such exemptions have been granted.
Those discharged will not be eligible for involuntary separation pay and may have to return any unearned or incentive pay.
The military has long required a variety of other vaccines to assure a healthy force, since disease can spread swiftly through the ranks of members serving in close quarters, such as aboard a ship at sea or in military barracks on land.
But though top brass in the military support the vaccine mandate, some Republicans in Congress opposes it – including Congressman Darrell Issa (CA-50) and 14 colleagues who sent a letter to the House Appropriations Committee chair urging that a spending bill be amended to prohibit the vaccine mandate for the military.
“The Biden military vaccine mandate is a destructive mistake that is ruining troop morale, negating force readiness, and destroying the lives of our best and bravest,” said Issa. “Hundreds of active-duty service members have reached out to my office fearful for their future. This mandate must be stopped before it does even more damage.”
Issa offered an amendment to floor legislation to prevent funding to be used to enforce the mandate for Guard and Reserve forces.
He also created a portal on his website for service men and women being threatened with discharge from the military. Hundreds of military personnel have been in contact with Rep. Issa’s office seeking assistance.