Army Tries to Bring Back Soldiers Booted for Refusing the COVID Vaccine

In August of 2021, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin made the COVID vaccination shot a requirement for all U.S. servicemembers. President Joe Biden released a statement revealing his strong support before it went into effect. As a result, Politico reported that over “8,400 troops were kicked out of the military for refusing the vaccine.” About a year later, Biden signed a defense bill that repealed the vaccine mandate.

This month, news broke that the Army has sent letters to many of the troops who were ousted, which explains that soldiers can correct their records and reenter the service. The reversal has been met with tremendous backlash.

Retired Army Major Chase Spears wrote about the mistreatment servicemembers faced while the vaccine mandate was in effect. He shared, “The Army requires several immunizations and checkups throughout the year to maintain one’s medical readiness. Not one of those came with the coercive force of the COVID mandate. … It became the primary marker of human worth.” For Spears, the Army officials who heavily enforced the mandate seem to have no remorse for their actions. He added, “Hearkening back to biblical language, you were clean or unclean based on your shot status.”

Spears described the policy reversal as “a step toward sanity,” but concluded “it is far from enough.” “The question is whether those who made such un-American policy decisions can be trusted going forward.” He believes they cannot. Those affected by the military’s course of action have insisted this is a matter of trust and warn the military is about to get a wake-up call from the soldiers who no longer have confidence in the current leadership.

Many of the soldiers affected by the vaccine mandate were deprived of pay and benefits. According to Breitbart, retired attorney Dale Saran and attorneys Andy Meyer and Brandon Johnson are representing former troops who were kicked out “in three separate lawsuits they plan to turn into a class action lawsuit.” Saran estimated roughly “80,000 to 100,000 service members — both active-duty and reservists — who were impacted by the mandate.”

Mike Berry, vice president of External Affairs, director of Military Affairs, and senior counsel for First Liberty Institute, commented to The Washington Stand, “The only way an all-volunteer military works is with trust. But these past few years, the Pentagon has done nothing but shatter the trust of our servicemembers and veterans with lies, broken promises, and incompetence.” He explained that when First Liberty first “sued the Navy over its COVID vaccine mandate,” they warned them that the “unlawful manner in which the DOD was enforcing the mandate would result in a recruiting crisis.”

On Tuesday’s episode of “Washington Watch,” Berry unpacked the mandate’s rollback more. As far as he’s concerned, the problem with the letter is that it “doesn’t say anything about accountability.” He added, “It’s not about accomplishing the mission. And in this case, it’s not about protecting religious freedom, which is one of the things that our military exists to do.” He concluded, “They know what this is all about. This is all about just trying to save face, trying to make sure that on paper, our military is meeting its recruiting and retention numbers.”

Travis Weber, vice president for Policy and Government Affairs at Family Research Council and a Navy veteran, also commented to TWS, “The military never should have coerced its servicemembers to get the vaccine to begin with.” For Weber and all those witnessing the unfolding of the military’s actions, we “are dealing with the fallout as they try to woo back the thousands that they kicked out for refusing to violate their consciences and get the vaccine.”

Weber shared that it’s not surprising that servicemembers would be hesitant to return “to an institution that so easily thrust them aside in the face of public pressure” during COVID, which “the military bowed to along with much of the rest of society.” He concluded, “May this sad episode never be repeated, and may our nation’s military and civilian leadership be on guard to ensure they actually lead and not simply follow the blowing winds of public sentiment.”


Sarah Holliday

Sarah Holliday is a reporter at The Washington Stand.


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EDITORS NOTE: This Washington Stand column is republished with permission. All rights reserved. ©2023 Family Research Council.

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