WASHINGTON (ChurchMilitant.com) - Department of Defense officials are no longer requiring COVID shots for U.S. military personnel, but they're still recommending them.
On Tuesday, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin rescinded the August 2021 mandate requiring troops to be vaccinated against COVID-19. The memo still encourages, however, those who defend the country to subject themselves to the controversial vax.
"The Department will continue to promote and encourage COVID-19 vaccination for all Service members," Austin stated. "Vaccination enhances operational readiness and protects the Force," he maintained.
Austin was forced to rescind the 2021 mandate after Biden signed the National Defense Authorization Act last month. The defense spending bill contained a provision requiring the administration to repeal the mandate for military personnel.
"The Pentagon has RESCINDED their COVID vaccine mandate. This is a HUGE victory," tweeted U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., following the DOD's announcement. The newly reelected congresswoman continued, "Now, it's time to make it right for the people whose lives were destroyed by this disgraceful mandate!"
The Pentagon has RESCINDED their COVID vaccine mandate.— Lauren Boebert (@laurenboebert) January 10, 2023
This is a HUGE victory.
Now, it's time to make it right for the people whose lives were destroyed by this disgraceful mandate! pic.twitter.com/M0CKukgSYX
Various reports indicate the military discharged nearly 8,500 of its 1.3 million service members for refusing the jab, while thousands more sought medical and religious exemptions. It's unclear what, if any, avenues will be offered for those who were honorably discharged to return to active duty — assuming they're even interested in returning.
"The Army is facing its most challenging recruiting environment since the all-volunteer force's inception in 1973," revealed Brian McGovern, deputy director of public affairs for U.S. Army Recruiting Command.
Last fall, McGovern told Deseret News that low recruitment was due, in part, to only 9% of the eligible population wanting to serve — the lowest it's been since 2007. That begs the question: Why don't those who are fit to serve want to?
Critics speculate that it has to do with the military becoming too woke and imposing so-called vaccines that lack adequate testing.
Ahead of the NDAA's passage, a handful of Republican senators argued that Austin's 2021 mandate lacked common sense: "I want to urge DOD to change your policy. It literally is insane, I think, to drive men and women out of the military at a time [when] we have recruiting shortages because of a refusal to take this vaccine," hammered Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., at a November press briefing.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., also questioned the wisdom of pushing the vax: "At a time when the military is struggling to meet their targets for recruitment, the Biden administration is firing soldiers we invested in and trained."
There are those in the ranks, however, who'd prefer to retain the mandate. Prior to Austin rescinding it, U.S. Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro expressed concern that unvaxxed military personnel could create movement limitations during foreign port visits.
"Unquestionably, it will create almost two classes of citizens in our services: those that can't deploy and those that can deploy. And that creates all sorts of problems," Del Toro remarked last month.
During December's Aspen Security Forum in Washington, D.C., retired Gen. David Petraeus questioned why any unformed man or woman would refuse the "FDA-approved" vax, alleging it improves readiness. He added that the military "has always taken its shots."
The answer to Petraeus' question lies, perhaps, with the jab's questionable safety record. Testifying at a Capitol Hill roundtable in 2021, Army Lt. Col. Theresa Long, a flight surgeon who holds a master's degree in public health, stated that vaccinated pilots could die midair from heart failure. Long revealed that she had to ground several pilots who developed myocarditis after receiving the mRNA jab. She says that she warned military leaders and asked that they inform soldiers of the apparent risks, but she claims her concerns were ignored.
Military men and women who worry about the safety of COVID so-called vaccines can rest easy for now — at least until the next predicted pandemic.