Only 43 out of more than 8,000 service members who were discharged from the military over the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate have sought to rejoin, according to a recent report by CNN.
According to the report, 19 have rejoined the Army, 12 have rejoined the Marine Corps, one has rejoined the Air Force, and two have rejoined the Navy.
The report suggested that the low numbers prove that Republicans who say the mandate hurt recruiting and retention were wrong.
However, some troops who fought the mandate while they were in the military told Breitbart News that they disagree.
Retired Air Force Master Sergeant Nick Kupper, who recently retired after successfully fighting his discharge, told Breitbart News that troops are not seeking to rejoin because they feel betrayed.
“I think a service member going back to the military after being kicked out over the COVID mandate is like a woman going back to her abusive husband. He promises that this time will be different and that he won’t hit her anymore, but in reality he’ll likely hit her so hard that he kills her this time,” he said.
Recently retired Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Samuel Shoemate, who administers a military whistleblowing website, agreed that troops are wary of rejoining the same military they were just forced out of.
“I’ve personally spoken to thousands of service members and their family members over the last two years, and the consensus has roundly been the same among all of them; they will not rejoin a military under current leadership which so readily broke the law and denied them their constitutional rights,” he said in a statement.
He and other veterans argue that the version of the vaccine that was distributed to the military when the mandate began was not FDA-approved and that troops were illegally required to take a version that was under Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). The Biden administration argues that the version of the vaccine that was distributed to troops was interchangeable with the FDA-approved version.
Republicans succeeded in forcing the Biden administration to overturn the vaccine mandate through the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a yearly defense bill that authorizes Pentagon policy and spending. It is the main vehicle that lawmakers have to affect Pentagon policy.
However, the repeal of the mandate came after the Biden Pentagon succeeded in discharging more than 8,000 troops, with tens of thousands more who had applied for religious or administrative exemptions and were in limbo. Lawsuits succeeded in enjoining the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps from separating more service members as the cases were being litigated.
Kupper fears the Biden administration will wait until the 2024 NDAA is passed before implementing a new mandate.
“Unfortunately I believe that once this year’s [National Defense Authorization Act] passes the DoD will add the COVID shot to their annual list and these service members will once again be faced with the same abuse that they just escaped,” he said. “The military will continue in a downward spiral until there is significant and thorough change in DoD and White House leadership.”
The Pentagon has left it up to the military services on whether they would reach out to service members about rejoining, and some services have pursued outreach to those who were discharged. It is not clear how widespread those efforts are.
“Service members and their families felt betrayed by DOD leadership, and they were. The hardships many of them experienced as a result of refusing the vaccine were so egregious that the thought of ever returning was simply never an option,” Shoemate said.