After vaccine mandate, military's 'moral injury' goes deep, hurts badly

After vaccine mandate, military's 'moral injury' goes deep, hurts badly

After vaccine mandate, military's 'moral injury' goes deep, hurts badly

The controversial COVID-19 vaccine mandate may have been rescinded by the Pentagon but, like a sore arm from a painful shot, the painful impact to service members remains.

According to Brad Miller, a former U.S. Army lieutenant colonel, there’s an “untold woe” that is impacting both current and former members of the nation’s military who refused the shot or, for many others, rolled up a sleeve against their will and now regret it. 

Miller, LTC Bradley (U.S. Army) Miller

Miller personally knows that "woe" and its pain. The former 101st Airborne battalion commander was relieved of command in October 2021 for refusing to comply with a vaccine mandate implemented just two months earlier.

It was rescinded in January of this year - far too late for Miller and many others - thanks to congressional action. In the annual National Defense Authorization Act, Congress required Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to rescind the mandate.  

Miller tells American Family News that Austin’s vaccine mandate revealed a growing “sickness within the military.” He credits Dr. Crisanna Shackelford, a senior fellow at Children’s Health Defense, for appropriately labeling this malaise as “moral injury.”

The National Center for PTSD states that “a moral injury can occur in response to acting or witnessing behaviors that go against an individual's values and moral beliefs.” Interestingly, the “hallmark reactions” of moral injury are guilt, shame, disgust, and anger.

Service members are experiencing “feelings of resentment” over the mandate, and these feelings are manifesting themselves in disgust and anger, Miller shares. While the mandate was officially rescinded seven months ago, he says, it had already affected thousands of service members who were punitively discharged or chose to leave the military on their own. This, he contends, has “undoubtedly caused immeasurable moral injury.”

Beyond those who quit in protest, giving up their career, there are those that went against their own "moral code" and participated in the mandate.

They might have disagreed with the mandate, Miller says, but wanted to ensure a promotion or even save their military career. Others may have jumped in line without an objection but later "learned the realities" of the unlawful order and the dangerous side effects from the experimental shot. 

In either example, the former lieutenant colonel contends some of those people are now "finding it difficult to reconcile their actions with the truth.”

Regarding those in uniform who pushed back, many who vocally protested were punished by a loss of promotion or by taking away a desired duty assignment, and many were kicked out entirely. For these individuals, he says, their trust in their country "has been betrayed, crushing their sense of identity and kinship with the military.”

To address this, the former Army officer says the Pentagon should “fully compensate” all service members who were harmed personally or professionally due to the vaccine mandate. Instead of being harassed and punished, those service members, “should receive formal commendations [as recognition] for their courage amid an otherwise failing institution," he argues. 

Earlier this year, instead of reconciling with those separated service members, the military branches informed Congress those who were separated can sit in front of a review board or go visit a military recruiter to put on a uniform again. 

With the military branches falling short of new recruits, and now facing possible conflicts against China and Russia, Miller says the challenges facing our military are "significant" and readiness is not a priority anymore.

“The past few years," he observes, "have demonstrated that our internal professional education system has failed to produce more than a small percentage of leaders of character.”

He is concerned that the military is suffering from a “crisis of command” wherein “military commanders have totally lost sight of their responsibility to challenge unlawful orders from their superiors.”

Though Miller says that “quick and decisive action" must be taken to fix our armed forces, he remains “cautiously optimistic” about its future. However, he is quick to add that “optimism must be grounded in a realistic appraisal of the grave nature of the current situation; otherwise, it’s merely naivete.”