Seven Coast Guard cadets booted in September after commanders denied their vaccine exemption appeals were not reinstated after a last ditch effort to allow them to start the new semester, which began Wednesday, representatives of the cadets told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
The cadets hoped that law overturning the Department of Defense (DOD) COVID-19 vaccine mandate would persuade the Academy to permit the cadets, already behind by one semester, to re-join with their cohort, one of the cadets involved and advocates for the group told the DCNF. Among the military schools, the Coast Guard Academy, which operates under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in peacetime, is the only one to have officially dismissed unvaccinated cadets, the advocates said.
“I sent a letter to the Coast Guard Academy superintendent asking him to use his administrative powers to have us go back in since the [National Defense Authorization Act] was signed by the president and the mandate should be lifted soon,” Sophia Galdamez, one of the seven discharged, told the DCNF.
“However, all he responded with is that it’s out of his control, and you don’t have authority over that decision. And for me and my family to have a happy holidays,” she added.
Despite being a semester behind the other cadets in their cohort, the seven could still achieve their commissions if the Coast Guard allowed them to rejoin, retired Coast Guard Vice Adm. William Dean Lee, who, along with retired Rear Adm. Peter J. Brown, is lobbying to have the cadets reinstated, told the DCNF. Cadet processing began Wednesday, while classes are slated to begin on Jan. 9.
After initially refusing the vaccine on the grounds of religious belief in the fall of 2021, “I was immediately treated differently than all my other classmates that were vaccinated,” Galdamez told the DCNF. “I was bullied by my command and administrators, faculty at the academy.”
Administrators confined her behind a plexiglass barrier at the back of the classroom, she told the DCNF. One teacher pulled her aside to commend her performance as a student, but said her unvaccinated status would impede academic progress, Galdamez said.
She and her fellow unvaccinated cadets submitted requests for religious exemptions, which authorities are required to review on an individual basis.
Citing the government’s “compelling interest in mission accomplishment,” the force’s time sensitive role in emergency response and high rate of interaction with the general public, Coast Guard adjudicator Capt. Eugenio S. Anzano shot down Galdamez’s exemption request in a letter, dated March 4, 2022, that was shared with the DCNF. . . .
. . . . . Days after reporting to campus for the fall semester on Aug. 15, the cadets were called into the office and told they had 24 hours to pack and leave campus, Galdamez said, a statement echoed by Michael Rose, a pro-bono legal counsel for several of the cadets, according to The Day newspaper. Two of the cadets did not have homes to which to return.
The cadets were formally discharged on Sept. 23, according to Stand Together Against Racism and Radicalism in the Services, where Rose serves as general counsel.
“I sent letters to the academy, senators have written letters on [sic] the cadets’ behalf. And so far we have heard nothing regarding our reinstatement or if I’d be able to finish my degree and commissions,” Galdamez told the DCNF Wednesday. . . . (read more on the Daily Caller)