Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) this week on his podcast highlighted the plight of active duty service members who are fighting the Biden administration’s coronavirus vaccine mandate for the military.
Gaetz featured three active duty members suing the Biden administration for the mandate, which Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered last August.
Gaetz said that at a recent event in his district, which has the highest concentration of active duty military members in the country, a number of service members expressed frustration to him about the mandate.
“It is a purposeful Biden purge of our military,” Gaetz said Thursday on his podcast Firebrand.
Despite a broad reduction of pandemic-related restrictions by cities and businesses across the country, and despite the low number of service member deaths due to the coronavirus, the Biden administration is insisting that troops continue to get vaccinated or face discharge.
So far, about 3,400 troops have been discharged over not complying with the vaccine mandate. Thousands have applied for religious accommodation, but only several dozen have been granted and evidence obtained by members of Congress suggests they are only being granted for troops already leaving service.
It is unusual for service members to speak out publicly against an administration policy, but the three on Gaetz’s podcast said they were speaking out because they were currently on leave, their public affairs officers were aware of the interview, and they were not speaking on behalf of the military.
Army Major Sam Sigoloff, a doctor who has been in the military for nine years, said he was chosen to become medical director at Fort Huachuca in Arizona, but after a month of work, he was suspended for granting medical exemptions to soldiers who did not want to get the vaccine. In addition, he said since September 13, 2021, he has not been in medical practice and is now in danger of losing his license in Texas. He also said Ivermectin has been banned for off-label use by someone not licensed to practice medicine.
Air Force Capt. Jordan Karr said she has also served in the military for about nine years, and that every generation of her family has served. She stated that what was going on was “unprecedented.”
“The most disheartening aspect of all of this is the junior-enlisted — you know, they’re the backbone of our forces — and the stuff that they are going through. Same with our cadets and our military academies. … They feel very alone and they feel isolated. And, you know, part of the reason that we’re here is to show them that they’re not alone, that there are things that can be done, that the American people can do on our behalf,” Karr said.
Karr said morale in the military “is very low.” She said she has friends who have been grounded from flying over the mandate. “They are able, they’re trained, the taxpayers pay them to fly. They’re not allowed to fly because they’re unvaccinated. And the irony here is they actually had to fly for vaccinated members who’ve had to call out sick.”
Air Force Master Sgt. Nickolas Kupper told Gaetz that he has personally seen hundreds of denied religious accommodation requests, including denied appeal requests, as well as a handful of approved requests.
“All of them start with the premise that the government has such a strong interest in vaccinating us that while they determined all of our religious beliefs are to be sincerely held, they determined that even as strongly as our beliefs are, they’re not as strong as the government’s desire and need to vaccinate all of us,” Kupper said.
“The only approvals they’ve been doing that I’ve been able to see in the court documents have shown are people who are already on terminal leave, already in their final months where they won’t return to a base. And in fact, the approval specifically says that they are only approving it because they will not return to a base. If the members aren’t returning to their duty station, that’s not an accommodation; they’re accommodating nothing,” he added.
Gaetz said the committee he serves on, the House Armed Services Committee, should be concerned about whether the mandate is affecting military readiness.
Kupper said according to the DOD’s own numbers, there have only been 95 service members lost to COVID, versus more than 3,200 kicked out of the military for not taking the vaccine.
“So if readiness is really the issue, 95 versus 3,200 is a significant difference. And from my perspective, and I don’t speak for the DOD, but from my perspective, I’d say 3,200 is the bigger readiness issue — with thousands more behind them,” Kupper said.
Sigoloff said service members are being retaliated against for their views on the mandate from colleagues.
“There is an unbelievable amount of retaliation happening. I recently was — had some of my charts in Alaska opened up to see if I was guilty of malpractice,” he said. “They’ve claimed that I’m guilty of malpractice. And now they have also suspended me and put a hit against my license, which will go to Texas.”
Karr said members have been coerced into getting the vaccine. “Once the mandates were implemented across the DOD, we started to see the coercion, the abuse happening across services,” she said.
“Something very concerning to me is if you are a believer and you are listening to this podcast, you need to understand that God-fearing service members are being intentionally purged from the services,” she said. “The people who are being discriminated against hold religious convictions, and are people of faith.”
Sigoloff agreed. “It’s a purposeful purge. Anyone who would disobey an unlawful order is being purged out of the military. And there is a shadow policy in place that is protecting all of these people enforcing the shadow policy. We’ve all put in [inspector general] complaints and they’ve all fallen on deaf ears.”
Kupper said he would like to see Congress and the government hold the Department of Defense accountable to the law, asserting that the vaccine members of the military are required to take is Pfizer and not the FDA-approved vaccine known as Comirnaty. The FDA has said the two products are the same.
Gaetz said he will introduce amendments to the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, which authorizes DOD actives, to ban any mandate for experimental vaccines for the coronavirus vaccine as it applies to the military, and that he will also be filing an amendment to restore to rank and pay anyone who was forced to leave the military or coerced to leave the military over the mandate.
Kupper predicted the mandate will affect future military recruitment.
“I used to recruit for years, and I can tell you, there was just a report that came out that shows that for the Air Force alone, their population that wants to join, they’ve lost 50% already. People are not wanting to join anymore. And honestly, if it’s my own kids, I’m not going to suggest they join. In fact, I’m going to do whatever I can to dissuade them,” Kupper said.
He added, “I’m literally putting my entire career on the line here. I’ve got a family of four children and my wife; one child is adopted and disabled from Armenia. If I don’t get this retirement, I lose my medical. You know, this is something I’ve worked my entire life for, but I know what’s right. I know what’s wrong. And I’m willing to put it all on the line to do what is right. And I tried to make that extremely clear to my leaders that look, if a person like me is willing to put everything on the line, you might want to listen to me. I might not be crazy.”
The service members recommended that service members seeking help reach out to groups on Telegram including Terminal CWO, Military Freedom Keepers, and 4Veterans.
Kupper said a lot of service members who do not want to take the vaccine feel alone and scared.
“I have honestly been extremely fearful with the steep rise in suicides. I’ve seen across the DOD that some of these members may take their life waiting for the duty to do the right thing, which it may never do,” he said.