In a number of interviews with AFN, more than two dozen military families said they have soured on serving their country in a uniform. For them that marks the end of a legacy for some families and also takes a toll on the future of America’s national security.
Rocky Rogers, who retired from the U.S. Coast Guard in 2022, quit with more than 20 years of service over the COVID-19 shot. After he refused to get the mandatory experimental vaccine, and was mistreated for doing so, he has told his children to avoid military service.
SEALs say unvaxxed status still punished by Pentagon
Chad Groening, AFN.net
The attorney for a religious liberty law firm is vowing to continue a legal fight on behalf of U.S. Navy SEALs who say they are still being punished for refusing to roll up a sleeve for the COVID-19 shot.
After a federal appeals court recently ruled a preliminary injunction against the Department of Defense is moot, since Congress repealed the vaccine mandate, the injunction also prevented the Pentagon from punishing U.S. Navy personnel who had voiced religious objections to the vaccine.
Danielle Runyan, an attorney with First Liberty Institute, tells AFN there has been no credible assurance by the Navy it is complying. Even though vaccination status will supposedly not be considered, she says, the law firm's Navy clients say they are being treated differently than vaccinated sailors regarding deployment and assignments.
“So that has not changed,” she warns, “and we are going to continue to fight for their rights.”
First Liberty and law firm Hacker Stephens LLP won the first injunction against the military's vaccine mandate in 2022 in Navy SEALs v. Biden.
“I’ve told them that I would not recommend it,” Rogers tells AFN, recognizing of course that children will make their own decisions about that when they are eligible to join.
The U.S. Coast Guard is considered a military branch but is overseen by the Department of Homeland Security. It currently has approximately 57,000 personnel, including reserves and civilian employees.
Along with many others, Rogers sought a religious exemption to the experimental shot and, like many others, he witnessed the military deny almost all of those requests, which numbered at least 8,500 according to the Pentagon's own figures.
In 2022, the Pentagon’s inspector general faulted the Department of Defense for denying so many religious exemptions with barely a glance. The Pentagon was in “potential noncompliance” with its own standards to review and reject the requests, the report said, because of a “generalized” assessment of requests rather than an individual assessment required by federal law and DOD rules.
When frustrated Coast Guard members joined a 1,200-person lawsuit over the religious exemptions, a Coast Guard spokesman claimed no one had been penalized for seeking an exemption, Fox News reported last fall.
"Coast Guard policy prohibits taking retaliatory actions against a member for seeking a religious accommodation, and all religious accommodation requests are processed in accordance with standard agency guidance and policy," the spokesman claimed.
After that experience, Rogers says he lost confidence not just in the Coast Guard but in the entire military.
“The freedoms [of service members] were trampled on,” he insists. “And that’s where I base my decision to not recommend the military for anybody, not just my kids.”
‘Harpy Daniels’ didn’t help recruitment
Citing a second reason, Rogers says the morals of the armed forces have changed, too.
“An institution that forces drag queen acceptance on everybody,” he states, “is not a place where I want my kids to be.”
Not only has the Pentagon embraced the rainbow flag and the LGBT alphabet, it expects everyone in uniform to agree or get out. “Their contributions to our national security are powerful,” Lloyd Austin, the Secretary of Defense, said in “Pride Month” statement last month
Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy recruited a Yeoman 2nd Class drag queen nicknamed “Harpy Daniels” as a recruiting tool for new sailors. When the 2022 fiscal year ended, the Navy missed recruitment targets for reserve personnel and for active duty officers.
Last year, the number of eligible Americans who showed interest in military service was its lowest in 15 years, according to a related NBC News story.
Asked if he is concerned about the future of the military, Rogers tells AFN he is concerned but says the armed forces deserves the blame. Meanwhile, his biggest concern is his own children and their own moral upbringing, which is his chief responsibility.
“Unless things change drastically, and serious religious protections like the Constitution are honored and put into place, my hands are tied,” he says.
‘I told them to kick rocks’
In other interviews with AFN, fellow Coast Guard veterans who have quit say their personal experience over the mandated COVID-19 vaccine hit them hard, much like a punch to the stomach. They also saw the climate and culture change for the worse in front of their eyes.
“When I saw every person in a major leadership role blindly follow the ridiculous guidance from the CDC, HHS and NIH, it shook me,” says Robert Williams, who was a Coast Guard helicopter rescue swimmer when he retired a year ago with the rank of chief petty officer.
“When they told me I could not do the job I loved before, unless I took an experimental jab," he tells AFN, "I told them to kick rocks.”
Williams, who is black, says he was already frustrated with the mandatory race-based D-E-I initiatives which he describes as a “suffocating” experience.
“I didn’t see the racism in the service they were reading all this outrage about, but I still loved the job,” he recalls. “And then came COVID mandates.”
What really hurts, Williams says, is his son looked up to him and the important but dangerous rescue swimmer job on a helicopter crew. He remembers his son excitedly watching Williams, wearing his rescue gear, hop on a helicopter.
“I will not risk my life for an organization I don’t believe in anymore,” Williams concludes. “And I would never encourage my son to do it.”
Chris Wright, who retired with the rank of commander one year ago this month, describes how Coast Guard leaders threatened, coerced, and punished non-compliant members who were competent professionals with excellent service records.
On his way out, Wright says he tried to warn them they were taking part in destroying the Coast Guard.
“I informed my leadership,” he recalls, “that discharging thousands of Coast Guard members who have stood up for their moral principles, sincerely held religious beliefs, or faith in a higher power, posed a greater ‘risk to the mission’ than allowing these members to remain unvaccinated, along with the negative optics this decision may have on recruitment.”
Among his fellow Coast Guard members who remain on the job because they got the COVID-19 shot, Wright believes many of them were harmed, too. Even though they are still at work, he explains, they went through a stressful, arm-twisting experience that likely changed them for good.
“Unfortunately, these members will not have forfeited their misgivings upon compliance,” he predicts. “Instead, their misgivings will likely be driven deeply inside and turned inward in ways that we as leaders cannot see.”
Back in May, three months ago, the Coast Guard acknowledged it missed its latest recruiting goals by about 4,800 members. It has now fallen short of those recruitment numbers four years in a row.