Afghan war vet with two heart conditions faces dishonorable discharge for refusing COVID shot
Potential consequences for non-compliance with Pentagon vaccine mandate are dire, including loss of eligibility for a range of important benefits, opportunities, honors and rights.
The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook
A United States Marine corporal who served in Afghanistan during Operation Freedom Sentinel and Operation Southern Vigilance is facing dishonorable discharge for refusing to take the COVID-19 shots as required by the secretary of defense.
Having been diagnosed with two heart conditions, arrhythmia and right bundle branch blockage, taking an experimental drug with unknown long-term side effects isn't a medical option for him, he says, especially since the shots have already been proven to cause blood clots and heart inflammation. However, he was informed that the only medical waiver he could receive was if he was diagnosed with congenital heart failure.
The nonprofit religious freedom law firm Liberty Counsel says it's "been inundated with heartrending pleas for help from military members who are being ordered to get the COVID shots or face discipline, including solitary confinement and dishonorable discharge." This Marine's story is just one of many.
"If I don't stand for what I believe in, I could never look at myself in the mirror again," the corporal said in a statement issued by Liberty Counsel. "This is everything I've fought for and taught my Marines and everything our Founding Fathers stood against. This is completely unconstitutional and goes against more than one Amendment."
All military members who refuse the COVID shots are facing dishonorable and bad conduct discharge for failing to obey a lawful order, a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Non-compliance could mean a general court martial at the Divisional Commander Level, six months solitary confinement/imprisonment, and a felony charge.
The DOD even created a new disciplinary department, the COVID Consolidated Disposition Authority, or CCDA, according to messages released by the U.S. Navy to servicemembers. Last month, Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro said the new CCDA would decide what happens to sailors who refuse to get the shots, Military.com reported.
The CCDA would use "the full range of administrative and disciplinary actions," Del Toro said, adding that "until further notice" he wouldn't allow the CCDA to begin "non-judicial punishment, courts-martial, or administrative separation in cases of Navy Service Members refusing the vaccine."
But the U.S. Air Force warned, "Any refusal to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, absent an approved exemption or accommodation, may be punishable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Military commanders retain the full range of disciplinary options available to them under the UCMJ."
Liberty Counsel warns that for members dishonorably discharged, the potential consequences are dire, including loss of eligibility for a range of important benefits, opportunities, honors and rights, including: VA home loans and medical benefits, educational benefits under the GI Bill, military funeral honors, reenlistment in another military branch, and the right to own a firearm — all for simply refusing to take an experimental drug.
The Department of Defense has issued deadlines for active-duty personnel to receive both doses. For the Air Force, it's Nov. 2; for the Navy and Marine Corps it's Nov. 28, and for the Army it's Dec. 15. The initial order was issued by the secretary of defense Aug. 24.
The order covers all on active duty or in the Ready Reserve, including the National Guard. It also states that "those with previous COVID-19 infection are not considered fully vaccinated" — although debate continues within the scientific community about whether natural immunity provides stronger protection against COVID than vaccine-induced immunity.
In response to the Pentagon mandates, a group of GOP Senators — Ted Cruz (Texas), Roger Marshall (Kan.), James Lankford (Okla.) and Tommy Tuberville (Ala.) — introduced the COVID-19 Vaccine Dishonorable Discharge Prevention Act to prohibit the Department of Defense from dishonorably discharging service members who refuse to get the shots.
"It's an insult to our servicemen and women who have served with honor to dishonorably discharge them for refusing the COVID vaccine," said Cruz. "It is the same way we dishonorably discharge those convicted of serious crimes such as treason, desertion, sexual assault, and murder. Forcing all service members, including pregnant women and those who have already had COVID-19, to receive the vaccine is just one more example of President Biden and his administration putting politics ahead of science. I am proud to join Sen. Marshall on this crucial bill to ensure the proper steps are taken by the military chain of command in response to those seeking exemptions from this vaccine."
The DOD has posted a chart online detailing how many in each branch have received the COVID shots, broken down by employee category of active duty, civilian, or contractor. According to the department, more than 5.5 million doses have been administered, 1.2 million service members and over 317,000 DOD civilians are fully vaccinated.
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