With ever-increasing aggression by America’s enemies, military readiness is a vital national security issue. I don’t think most people would disagree with that sentiment. The Pentagon has said that they are implementing a vaccine mandate for service members to increase military readiness.
The problem with this logic is the mandate will have the opposite effect, making our military less ready to respond to global threats. I have been vaccinated with three rounds of Pfizer’s vaccine. When I became eligible to receive it I did what I recommend to anyone that asks, and that is talking to your doctor and see if you are a good candidate to receive it. My doctor said I was a very good candidate for it so I listened. It was a personal decision on my part, not a government mandate, and our brave fighting men and women deserve the same option as to whether to take it or not.
I have been inundated by members of the military and their families begging for some relief, for sanity to prevail. People that are having long-term military careers ended at the drop of a hat are contacting me very despondent already. Your whole life has been built around a career sacrificing for your country and fighting for freedom then you’re told you are done. What kind of freedom have they been fighting for? Freedom?
Estimates show that nearly 30 percent of our Armed Forces are unvaccinated for COVID-19. The Pentagon has taken a hard line against these service members, giving them an ultimatum. Get vaccinated or hit the road. Unlike the requirements for federal employees and contractors, there is no option for regular testing or masking, and exemptions for medical or religious reasons are nearly impossible to come by. As I said earlier, the Pentagon claims that this is to improve military readiness, but I cannot see how discharging up to 30 percent of our military would be at all in our national security interests, let alone improve military readiness. We will lose thousands of great members of our military.
The debate around vaccine mandates is not just about the numbers though. For many people, this is incredibly personal. When I travel back to Missouri each week, I hear from active-duty personnel and their families who share their stories about what this mandate will do to them. Some have told me about their family history with the military, how they are now on the 5th generation of military service, service that will soon come to an end because of this mandate. Unvaccinated people have their reasons why they have not gotten the shot. One woman told me about her daughter who is not getting vaccinated because she is breastfeeding and isn’t sure how the vaccine will affect her infant. Many are unvaccinated because they have already had COVID and therefore have the antibodies to fight against it. Currently, the Department of Defense administers 17 vaccines to members of the military, all with clear health and religious exemptions. Unlike those 17 other vaccines, this COVID vaccine mandate does not have clearly stated exemptions.
It is for these reasons that earlier this week, I submitted a discharge petition to force a vote on bill H.R. 3860, which would prohibit any requirement that a member of the armed forces receives vaccination against COVID-19. Should the discharge petition reach 218 signatures, the bill will be brought before the full House of Representatives for a vote. I am proud to lead this charge on behalf of our fighting men and women.
To me, this mandate boils down to some very simple questions. Should a nursing mother lose her job because she waited to get the vaccine until after she was done breastfeeding? Should people who have recovered from COVID lose their job because they don’t want to get the vaccine? Should those with sincerely held religious beliefs lose their job because of those beliefs? The answer to all these questions is NO. Unfortunately, the Pentagon has not granted many exemptions for these reasons, and 30 percent of our military could soon lose their jobs and way of life because of it. I am fighting to stop this madness so that our military men and women can continue to fight for our nation.
For more information on my activities in our district and in Washington, I encourage you to follow my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Rep.Billy.Long and my Twitter page at https://twitter.com/USRepLong. You can also subscribe to my weekly newsletter, “Long’s Short Report,” by visiting https://longforms.house.gov/newsletter.
Congressman Billy Long is a Republican who represents Missouri’s 7th congressional district. He is a candidate for U.S. Senate.