By Nathan Worcester, The Epoch Times
Amid a historic military recruiting crisis, unvaccinated soldiers who were kicked out of the U.S. Army are being invited back.
In a recent letter to “former service member[s],” Brig. Gen. Hope C. Rampy informed recipients that “former soldiers who were involuntarily separated for refusal to receive the COVID-19 vaccination may request a correction of their military records.”
(STARRS General Counsel Mike Rose Note: The ability to request a correction of military records to a Board of Correction of Military Records has existed for decades pursuant to federal statutes, so this announcement by B/Gen Rampy provides nothing new.
Obtaining the correction of military records requires knowledge, time, effort and probably money.
The Army’s objective of reinstating those discharged for not taking the vaccine, and the interests of the former military members punished for not taking the vaccine, would be better served if Congress or the Army itself created a streamlined, easier procedure to process and adjudicate requests for the correction of military records.
As I recall, President Ford created a streamlined procedure by Executive Order to process and give pardons to individuals convicted of avoiding the draft during Viet Nam.
The President/Commander in Chief probably could correct military records simply by decree/order.
Because of costs and complexities, requiring military members to individually petition Boards for Correction of Military Records to obtain justice is not a practical solution that would achieve the desired outcome.)
The mandate was officially repealed early this year in line with a provision in the defense package passed in December 2022. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin first mandated COVID-19 vaccination on Aug. 24, 2021, just weeks after announcing his intention to do so through an Aug. 9 memo.
The very same day, President Joe Biden chimed in with his support for mandating COVID-19 vaccines. “These vaccines will save lives. Period. They are safe. They are effective,” he claimed.
More than 8,000 troops from various branches were kicked out of the military because of the mandate.
Now, more than two years later, a deepening recruitment crisis, and conflicts in the Ukraine and the Middle East, as well as the risk of war over Taiwan or other countries, have changed things.
During the third Republican presidential debate in Miami, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) said the U.S. military must be “prepared to fight and engage in three continents at the same time.”
Days after President Joe Biden met with Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping at a summit in California, nine Chinese aircraft passed over the Taiwan Strait’s median line.
And since the Israel-Hamas war kicked off, Iran-linked actors have attacked U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria more than 60 times, prompting a Nov. 22 counterstrike by U.S. fighter jets on Iraqi targets.
Recruiting woes are dogging much of the military. This year, the Army missed its recruitment goal by 10,000, while the Navy fell short by 7,000—continuing a trend from the past year.
While many conservatives have blamed this on the Pentagon’s “woke” policies, the Defense Department has officially pointed to other reasons, including competition with corporate America, a “disconnected” American youth, and the pandemic.
But a former Army officer who had recently served in U.S. Army Recruiting Command revealed to The Epoch Times that the Pentagon is indeed aware that progressive politics have been harming recruitment, but officials were barred from publicly recognizing this.
“Those are the kinds of concerns we were absolutely not allowed under any circumstances to acknowledge,” retired Maj. Charles Spears said.
And American families who once defended their nation are abandoning traditions that run through the generations.
“I can’t in good conscience promote the military to my children while they’re promoting things like DEI that go against everything we believe in,” a veteran from the Coast Guard previously told The Epoch Times.
Recruiting shortfalls have prompted the Niskanen Center, a formerly libertarian think tank, to recommend that the military seek out more immigrants.
With all that in mind, it may not be shocking that Rampy’s letter closed with instructions on what the vaccine refuseniks should do if they “desire to return to service.”
So far, it’s not obvious that the military’s olive branch will make much of a difference.
Only 19 soldiers who were removed from the Army have rejoined it as of November of this year, according to an Army spokesman’s email to The Epoch Times.
And an Air Force spokeswoman told The Epoch Times via email that just one member of that branch who was forced out over the vaccine has returned as of this month.
Bradley Miller, a former Army lieutenant colonel who received the letter, told The Epoch Times that the branch’s invitation to get records corrected rang hollow.
“I think most former soldiers, myself included, just kind of feel like it’s just too little, too late,” he said.
“Even if they were to go back in, their careers have been completely derailed,” the veteran said. He explained that many discharged soldiers may be averse to returning to the military because of how they were treated.
Republican lawmakers took the opportunity to criticize the Biden administration’s imposition of a vaccine requirement on U.S. troops.
“These heroes in uniform should have never been discharged in the first place. With the way they’ve been treated by the Biden administration, it’s no wonder our recruiting is worse than ever before,” Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) wrote on X, formerly Twitter.
“We’re all glad to see the Army is reversing its persecution of soldiers who refused to get the COVID vaccine, but that doesn’t take away the damage this caused to our troops,” Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-Texas) wrote in a post on that same platform.
Some soldiers who were kicked out of the Army and other branches are suing the federal government for back pay.
In early January, soon after the rescission of the vaccine mandate was announced, a Pentagon spokesman told Politico the military was “still exploring” the possibility of awarding back pay. But just a few days later, a different Department of Defense spokesman told reporters that the military was “not currently pursuing back pay for service members who were dismissed for refusing to take the COVID vaccination.”
Attorney and military veteran Dale Saran, who has been involved in the legal battle over vaccine mandates, sounded optimistic in an email to The Epoch Times.
“We think there’s some pretty strong precedent in our favor, because when Congress repealed ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ they use the word ‘repeal’. When they did this, they use the word ‘rescind’,” he wrote.