Roughly 40,000 U.S. Army National Guard soldiers — or 13% of the force — who refused to take the mandated COVID vaccine had one last chance on Thursday, June 30, to get vaccinated before military officials could force members out of the service.
But Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) introduced legislation on the Guardsmen’s deadline that would ban federal funds used to require a National Guard member to receive the coronavirus vaccine, and prohibit the Secretary of Defense from taking any adverse actions against Guard members who did not comply with the mandate.
Blackburn’s legislation stands as a guard for the 40,000 Guardsmen who would face termination and ultimately threaten U.S. national security.
“Our servicemembers are the bedrock of America,” Blackburn told The Daily Caller before introducing the legislation. “Firing 40,000 Guardsmen for refusing the COVID vaccine would be both a complete disgrace and a threat to our national security.”
“I am honored to stand beside our National Guardsmen and women by introducing this legislation to protect them from President Biden’s forever pandemic,” she said.
Blackburn joins several House Republicans who have proposed laws to end COVID mandates, masks, and vaccines.
Sen. Roger Marshall (R-KS), a physician, said on Twitter that President Biden “is allowing illegal immigrants of unknown vax status to invade our country every day but is still willing to fire up to 40,000 American heroes.”
Tennessee National Guard members urged the state’s governor, Bill Lee, Wednesday to take action against the mandate and sue the federal government if necessary.
Stars and Stripes reported Guard members along with their families and friends delivered a petition to Lee’s office at the capitol.
“On June 30, hundreds of your Tennessee National Guard soldiers – under an illegal, improper order by the Biden administration’s Department of Defense in defiance of natural law and the United States Constitution – are scheduled to be dismissed from service due to refusal to accept a COVID-19 vaccination,” the petition states. “It is your duty before God and the citizens of the great state of Tennessee, sir, to help these men and women. Please stop them from being fired, sir!”
Data from The Associated Press shows approximately 30% of the guardsmen in six different states and more than 10% still in 43 other states still need the shot. Roughly 7,000 have asked for exemptions, mainly for religious purposes, and about 14,000 soldiers simply refused to bow down to the mandate altogether.
“When you’re looking at 40,000 soldiers that potentially are in that unvaccinated category, absolutely there’s readiness implications on that and concerns associated with that,” said Lt. Gen. Jon Jensen, director of the Army National Guard in an Associated Press interview. “That’s a significant chunk.”
Jensen said military officials would give “every soldier every opportunity” to get vaccinated to continue their military career.
“We’re not giving up on anybody until the separation paperwork is signed and completed,” he said. “There’s still time.”
Well, that time has expired.
Pentagon officials said after the June 30 deadline that National Guard soldiers wouldn’t receive payment by the federal government when activated on federal status — including monthly drills and their annual two-week training period. Even those assigned to work on the southern border or COVID-related missions in various states either have to get fully vaccinated or lose out on payment and participation.
However, states that don’t require the COVID jab could still allow activated duty members to serve in their respective states and receive state payments.
Last year, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered every service member of the U.S. Military to get vaccinated, saying it is critical to maintaining the health and readiness of the force, The Associated Press reported. In response, at least seven governors asked Austin to reconsider and not enforce the mandate on National Guard members.
Austin declined and said that the coronavirus “takes our service members out of the fight, temporarily or permanently, and jeopardizes our ability to meet mission requirements.”
He said Guard troops must either get the vaccine or lose their Guard status.