Groups of military members and their families are fighting hard behind the scenes against a potential mandate for all service members to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, according to half a dozen individuals involved in the efforts who spoke to Breitbart News on the condition of anonymity.
Together, they say they have amassed hundreds of thousands of calls over the past several weeks to members of Congress on the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, asking them to oppose a mandatory vaccine.
One Army spouse said there has been such a big effort that they have been asked what political action committee they are affiliated with.
“We’re calling, and some of these staffers are like, ‘What PAC are you guys organized by?’ And we’re like, ‘Oh no no, we’re not a PAC, we’re pissed off Army wives and husbands and mothers,'” said the spouse, who spoke with Breitbart News on the condition of anonymity out of fear for retribution against her husband’s career.
An Army chief warrant officer who runs the military meme page “Terminal CWO” on Instagram said his inbox has received “hundreds” of messages from members who oppose a vaccine mandate. “My inbox has been flooded,” said the chief warrant officer, who goes by “Danny.”
Mike Berry, a Marine reservist and lawyer with the First Liberty Institute, said their office has also been flooded with hundreds of emails and calls in the last week.
“Military and non-military combined, we’ve had over 400 requests for legal help just in the last week or so,” he said, adding that more have reached out with questions. “I’ve lost count,” he said.
Greg T. Rinckey, an Army veteran, told the Associated Press his office has also heard from “hundreds” of service members wanting to know their rights and whether they could take any legal action if ordered to get vaccinated. “A lot of U.S. troops have reached out to us saying, ‘I don’t want a vaccine that’s untested, I’m not sure it’s safe, and I don’t trust the government’s vaccine. What are my rights?’” he said.
On Monday, the Pentagon announced Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin would immediately mandate the vaccines for service members once it is approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and that if the FDA did not approve them by mid-September, he would seek a waiver from President Joe Biden to do so.
By law, the Pentagon cannot order service members to take a vaccine that is not yet approved by the FDA, unless there is a presidential waiver. However, it is not yet certain that Austin will request a presidential waiver, and some lawmakers argue that even in that case, his request must meet certain standards, such as in connection with a specific military operation and not just as a blanket order.
Currently, about a quarter of the active duty force has not received any doses of a vaccine, according to the Pentagon on Monday. That percentage is higher if National Guard and reserve forces are included.
The Pentagon has said troops can be punished if they do comply with a vaccine mandate.
“We have every expectation that once the vaccine’s made mandatory, the troops are going to do the right thing. But without speaking to the future, you know, if it’s treated like, certainly, any lawful order and there could be administrative and disciplinary repercussions for failing to obey that order,” Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said at a press briefing Tuesday.
Potential punishments include administrative reprimands and non-judicial punishments (NJPs), which can affect a service member’s promotions or career advancement, Carol Thompson, a partner at the Federal Practice Group, told Politico.
She said NJPs vary by rank, status and experience, and could range from a lowering in rank or suspension in pay, to an honorable or other-than-honorable discharge. If a service member challenges an administrative reprimand or NJP, it would then be tried at a court-martial. If a service member is convicted and exhausts the appeals process, they could receive a dishonorable discharge, a bad-conduct discharge, or a dismissal. Other potential consequences could be confinement and forfeiture of pay and allowances.
Members of the military and their families who spoke to Breitbart News cite various reasons why they and others do not want to get vaccinated.
One service member said she does not want the vaccine for medical and religious reasons. She cited an adverse reaction to a flu shot last year, and said she believes she was already exposed to COVID-19 last year and likely has antibodies to it.
She is also a devout Catholic who prays before meals. Some Catholics are opposed to getting the vaccines since they are opposed to abortion and the vaccines have been manufactured from fetal cell lines originally sourced from aborted fetal cells. She plans to seek religious exemption from the vaccine.
Some cite the potential health risks based on their family history, or the experience of others. Some are unsure about the vaccine’s effects on fertility.
They argue that if they contract the virus, the chances are good they will likely survive it. Statistics show that the virus most severely affects older adults and those with underlying conditions.
According to the Mayo Clinic in July, about 80% of deaths from coronavirus in the U.S. have been people age 65 and older.
A peer-reviewed Centers for Disease Control (CDC) study published in July found that of 540,667 adult hospitalized patients with COVID-19, 94.9% had at least one underlying medical condition, with the most frequent being hypertension and disorders of lipid metabolism. The strongest risk factors for severe COVID-19 illness were obesity, diabetes with complication, anxiety disorders, and the total number of conditions.
A CDC study published in March said that about 78% of people who were hospitalized, needed a ventilator, or died from COVID-19 were overweight or obese.
And according to scientists interviewed by WUSA9 in June, COVID-19 has a 97-98% recovery rate. A Economist analysis in March found that in rich countries, the case-fatality rate for COVID-19 positive people is just under 2%.
To date, 29 service members and 16 dependents have died from COVID-19, according to Pentagon statistics. At least 208,287 service members and 30,428 dependents have recovered from COVID-19, as of August 11.
Some skeptics note that some healthy service members have experienced myocarditis after taking the vaccine.
According to a June study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 22 currently-serving male service members who were all previously healthy with a high level of fitness experienced an “acute onset of marked chest pain within 4 days after receipt of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine” consistent with the clinical diagnosis of myocarditis.
Although more than 2.8 million doses of mRNA COVID-19 vaccine administered in the military during that period, the study noted, “While the observed number of myocarditis cases was small, the number was higher than expected among male military members after a second vaccine dose.”
A number of service members and their family members say they do not want the vaccine because they already had, or believe they had, the virus and have natural immunity to it.
“Why not have a program where if you just test them for COVID antibodies?” said Berry. “If you’ve already had COVID-19, and you’ve recovered and you now have the COVID antibodies in your system, then why not give them an exemption?”
“Most medical experts will tell you if you have a natural immunity then number one, you don’t need a vaccine, and number two, your natural immunity is probably stronger than an artificial immunity that comes from a vaccine,” he added.
Another common theme among skeptics was a lack of trust in military leadership’s interest in their health or safety.
Several soldiers and Army spouses cited poor military housing and the lack of leadership action. Another soldier cited having to wait several months to get care for an injured back. Another cited the Army’s lack of action on finding Army Spc. Vanessa Guillen until celebrities began posting about her disappearance on social media, in addition to general distrust over handling military sexual assault cases.
“Soldiers see this through and through and they have no trust for the system. We are run by men and women who lack any and all integrity and honor, and the ones who do have it, they’re grinding and staying humble and being quiet. They’re not the ones who rise to the surface,” said Danny from Terminal CWO.
Some also cited the muddled messaging coming from the White House. The Biden administration has urged vaccinated individuals to continue wearing masks indoors since they could still get and spread the virus.
Some troops are also contemplating leaving the military if the vaccine is mandated, although it is not clear how many actually will.
For now, concerned service members and their families are working around the clock to prevent a mandate from happening in the first place. So far, they have gained some traction inside Congress.
Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) has proposed a bill to prohibit a vaccine mandate and adverse actions taken against service members who refuse to receive a COVID-19 vaccination.
Does your US Representative oppose forced and coerced COVID-19 vaccinations for members of our military?
Here’s the cosponsor list for HR 3860, “a bill to prohibit any requirement that a member of the Armed Forces receive a vaccination against COVID-19.”https://t.co/E2IdPI7rjY
— Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) August 10, 2021
The bill, H.R. 3860, currently has 30 co-sponsors to date, including Reps. Chip Roy (TX), Lance Gooden (TX), Marjorie Taylor Greene (GA), Lauren Boebert (CO), Scott Perry (PA), Greg Steube (FL), Andy Biggs (AZ), Andrew Clyde (GA), Tim Burchett (TN), Jeff Duncan (SC), Paul Gosar (AZ), Alex Mooney (WV), Louie Gohmert (TX), Brian Mast (FL), Ralph Norman (SC), Tom McClintock (SC), Bill Posey (FL), Scott DesJarlais (TN), Bob Good (VA), Ted Budd (NC), Dan Bishop (NC), Mark Green (TN), Matt Gaetz (FL), Doug LaMalfa (CA), Mo Brooks (AL), Brian Babin (TX), Jody Hice (GA), Randy Weber (TX), Kat Cammack (FL), and Michael Cloud (TX).
Rep. Green also wrote a letter, signed by 15 colleagues, stating that it would be against the law if the Pentagon mandated the vaccines before FDA approval. Additional lawmakers have put out separate statements or letters, such as Rep. Clay Higgins (LA) and Rep. Lisa McClain (MI). Gaetz on Thursday admonished fellow Republican Rep. Mike Rogers (AL) on a recent podcast episode for supporting a vaccine mandate:
Here’s the problem. With the way they’re hunting people over this faux sense of extremism in the military and now this, it’s almost like they’re trying to drive out anybody who’s capable of independent thought. Similarly, we don’t know the long term impacts of this vaccine on readiness, on the human body. And the fact that we’re forcing military families to take this vaccine before it goes through the normal process — that’s deeply troubling to me.
He concluded: “Republicans should be fighting against this decision and not supporting it like Mike Rogers has.”
Navy Chief Petty Officer (Ret.) Jarome Bell, a U.S. congressional candidate for Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District, said a mandate would constitute an “unlawful order.” He added:
Now, it is not for me to say whether a person should be vaccinated or not, or receive any other medical treatment. We should be telling Americans to consult their doctors, not listening to talking heads, politicians, or journalists. That’s why we have doctors. Isn’t it clear by now that the more the regime tries to force people, the more they dig in their heels? The instinct in Washington to apply force is far more concerning than the vaccine or the virus.
The groups opposing the mandates say they have tried to gain support from Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee, with no luck.
If the Pentagon does forge ahead with a mandate, legal experts say the Pentagon could get bogged down with requests for religious and medical exemptions, as well as lawsuits.
“The DOD is really setting this up to be a constitutional crisis,” said Berry.
He said he has calculated that about 260,000 active duty service members have not received a vaccine dose. If just 10% of those file religious exemptions, service secretaries who have to approve the exemptions will get bogged down. Berry said requesters also have an automatic right to appeal if their request is denied.
“They’re just not equipped to handle that. I don’t think they were thinking through that,” he added.
Even without a mandate, service members and their families say they have faced pressure, intimidation, and harassment to get the vaccine.
Circulating are countless stories of unvaccinated service members having to separate from vaccinated service members, being subjected to onerous quarantines and travel restrictions, having to wear wristbands, reflective tape, or other items showing their vaccination status, and being banned from using dining facilities, gyms, or entering shoppettes on base.
One soldier at Fort Bliss said unvaccinated service members about to deploy overseas are quarantined in their rooms and have to wait for food and items to be delivered to them while vaccinated service members are free to roam around base and shop for necessities.
“Everybody here that’s not vaccinated that doesn’t want to get the vaccine, I would say morale is low. We’re all kind of pissed off,” the soldier. “We join the military to uphold the Constitution and fight for freedom, and that’s being stripped away very quickly.”
“It’s just kind of heartbreaking that I’m about to deploy — leaving the country for nine months and not being able to see my family — you know, making all these sacrifices and then it’s like, ‘Nope, you’re a piece of crap because you’re not vaccinated,'” she added.
Another soldier at a different base said soldiers were lined up in a formation, separated between the masked and unmasked, and that soldiers who were unmasked and not carrying cards to prove their vaccination status were punished with Article 15s, a non-judicial punishment.
The soldier said: “Their motto is one team one fight. Yet, Saturday they were literally lined up by shot acceptance and called out and punished if in the wrong formation.”
An Army spouse said her neighbor was the only African American in a class and the only one masked. “In a classroom there for awhile, he was the only one wearing a mask. How awkward is that? The one African American student sitting there with a mask on? It’s divisive, it’s unnecessary. They say that they’re doing it to protect the force, but they’re dividing the force. They’re creating more drama and resentment and pain,” she said.
One Army captain said in a statement to Congress: “Those who chose not to opt-in are labeled as ‘resistors’ and units that have multiple individuals that abstain are referred to as ‘pockets of resistance.’ That is not how American Soldiers should be spoken of when simply exercising their God-given liberties.”
He added he was drafting paperwork to resign his commission.
Another said he and other soldiers at his base have been “coerced, unduly pressured, and at times harassed about the vaccine and our vaccination status.” He wrote in a letter to members of Congress:
Soldiers have been asked in front of everyone whether they’ve gotten the vaccine. … This puts the Soldier on the spot in a very public setting to disclose potentially private health information. … Soldiers opting not to get the vaccine have been derided on two separate occasions to my knowledge, as ‘idiots, lazy, possessing no principled reasons for not getting the vaccine, and that they haven’t done their research and are just loose conspiracy theorists.’
I have considered getting a medical exemption for reasons related to my family history (father and several of his siblings died at an early age from heart attacks). The vaccine has already shown a propensity for causing myocarditis and heart attacks which is a concern of mine and my family. Statistically I’m not in an age bracket or have comorbidities that’d place me in any significant risk for permanent damage associated with covid or death.
He concluded: “I’m writing to you in the hopes that my voice will matter. That mine along with other service members who signed up to fight for and serve our country admirably, will be heard, and that we will be protected from such unethical and immoral actions in the future. I support House Bill 3860 and hope that those in Washington will recognize the great stress this has placed on me and my family, along with countless other service members as we find ourselves in a double bind.”
Berry said he has spoken to a number of people who say they will just leave the military if a vaccine is mandated.
“A number of people I’ve talked to have said, ‘I’ve got 10 years in, I’m not close enough to retirement, so I’m just going to resign my commission,'” he said. “These are good people that we want in our military, and they’re just saying, ‘It’s not worth it.’ … I really worry that they’re going to see a talent exodus.”
According to the Military Times, hundreds left military service to avoid getting the Anthrax vaccine, and at least another 149 were forced out, between 2000 to 2004.
An Army spouse said she is disappointed in the Army’s handling of COVID. She said her family moved during the pandemic due to her husband’s change in assignment, and they faced a lack of support and closed offices while doing so, and now their family could face more hardship due to a vaccine mandate and potential punishment.
“We’re not near our families. We don’t have a bubble. They were telling us not to go to our neighbor’s houses,” she said. “I feel so disappointed in the leaders across the Army. I just feel so disappointed that they’re so cowardly that they won’t speak out and say, ‘This is not a threat to the United States military.'”