A Fort Knox soldier receives a vaccine in this file photo from Sept. 9, 2021. The Biden administration wants any service member who refuses the vaccine to be dishonorably discharged. (Jon Cherry / Getty Images)
By Elizabeth Stauffer September 23, 2021 at 5:15pm
Last month, the Pentagon issued a military-wide COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
During the markup by the House Armed Services Committee, an amendment to the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act, Section 716, was introduced by Republican Rep. Mark Green of Tennessee. The proposal, which would “prohibit giving service members who refuse a vaccine anything but an honorable discharge,” was passed by the committee and added to the bill.
Section 716 acknowledges that “many Americans have reservations about taking a vaccine that has only been available for less than a year.”
The idea is that a service member in good standing shouldn’t be penalized with a dishonorable discharge because they refuse to take a vaccine.
The Military Times spoke to Alabama Rep. Mike Rogers, the ranking member on the committee, who told them, “I believe that the military should be able to require these vaccines, and I think every person of sound judgment in this country should take a vaccine. However, if somebody in good faith in the military says they can’t do it, they shouldn’t be stained for the rest of their lives with a dishonorable discharge.”
As per the vaccine mandate, the Biden administration would like the House to strike this provision from the bill before it passes.
According to The Daily Mail, the White House wants any soldier who refuses the vaccine to receive a court martial, followed by a dishonorable discharge from the military. They also want to eliminate a provision that would allow soldiers who have already had COVID-19, and therefore have natural immunity, not to take the vaccine.
The White House issued a statement which said they “strongly oppose” Section 716. “To enable a uniformed force to fight with discipline, commanders must have the ability to give orders and take appropriate disciplinary measures.”
The Mail reached out to Green for his reaction. He replied with the following statement: “I am appalled that the Biden Administration is trying to remove my amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that prevents anything but an honorable discharge for service members who refuse to get the COVID-19 vaccine. This was a bipartisan amendment — every Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee agreed to it.”
Do you think it’s fair to punish a service member with a dishonorable discharge because they refuse to take the COVID-19 vaccine?
Green, an Army veteran, told the Military Times that a dishonorable discharge “significantly impacts an individual for the rest of their lives, including future employment. … We should not destroy their lives for this.”
The White House also opposes Section 720 of the NDAA, which establishes protocol for service members seeking exemptions from the vaccine for “administrative, medical or religious reasons, including on the basis of possessing an antibody test result demonstrating previous COVID-19 infection.”
The statement said that Section 720 creates “a new and overly broad exemption from the vaccination requirement for previous infection that would undermine the effectiveness of the requirement.”
It continued, “The department will make available a full range of resources to service members, including individual and professional medical advice, to demonstrate the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccine and to ensure they are fully informed about vaccination.”
A court martial, followed by a dishonorable discharge, is the most punishing penalty the military can inflict on an individual soldier. This punishment is usually reserved for deserters, spies and murderers; it results in a forfeiture of all military benefits and bars them from reenlisting for life.
Hundreds of thousands of troops still remain unvaccinated, so this demand has broad implications for many people. Biden will undoubtedly make unvaccinated troops pay some kind of price for their refusal to get the shot, but trying to bring the ultimate hammer down on them is nothing short of cruel and unusual punishment.
The Military Times reported that as of last week’s data from the Department of Defense, 60 percent of all service members have had at least one dose of the vaccine.
The military will no doubt lose a lot of good men and women because of this mandate. What will happen if/when the vaccine mandate is found to be unconstitutional?
Oh, right, President Joe Biden will simply turn the page, just as he did with Afghanistan.