The US military belittles and pressures soldiers who seek religious accommodation to the vaccine mandate, according to two officers who refused to take the hit. Banning off-base travel and promotions are just a small part of the bigger push to force service members like them out of the military, they said.
Such actions come as the military, like other branches of the military, struggles with recruitment issues; the Army has only reached 52% of its recruiting goal for fiscal year 2022.
As a member of one of the most elite military units in the Army trained to conduct special operations anywhere in the world, Staff Sergeant Drew Miller (a pseudonym) told The Epoch Times, “Soldiers who continue to oppose the COVID-19 vaccine are being punished, not physically, but in a way that forces them out of the military.
“Many years of training and funding spent on these people to become some of the best in the military are being wasted right now,” he said, after serving more than 10 years in the service. Miller spoke to The Epoch Times using a pseudonym for fear of retaliation.
“I and many others are just stuck at [a military installation] doing nothing associated with what we were trained to do,” he added, lamenting that “our job was essentially taken away from us.”
On top of that, Miller said, some of the most elite teams in the military are being broken up. “And in the process, we’re being hit with all kinds of scare tactics, coercion and intimidation that you can think of to get us out of the military,” he added.
The bashing, according to Miller, began immediately after Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin announced in August 2021 a military vaccine mandate. “Soon after, they gathered us all together in an auditorium outside the Peanut Gallery to tell us that the reason America was in decline was because of [unvaccinated] people like us,” he said. Essentially, various members of the command said, “People like us understood anyone who did not want to give in to the illegal order,” he added.
Miller described the treatment he and others regularly received as “mind blowing”. “Each of us has the ability to think critically and has the ability to differentiate between a legal and an illegal order,” he said. Miller, like others who oppose the warrant, believes the warrant is illegal.
He said that even though there are legitimate reasons to refuse the COVID-19 vaccine, “we are told that the military is of no use to us and that they don’t need people like us who hand over the things in question”.
Careers are threatened and soldiers are coerced, he said. “We’re told if we don’t get the hang of it, we’ll be kicked out and unable to find a job.” And while he and several others are holding their own against the threats, Miller said, “We sit at desks and type at a computer rather than learning and training and doing our jobs.”
The soldiers are “swept under the rug and basically sent to a dark office or dark corner somewhere”. This, he said, is “wasteful”. Miller is extremely concerned that “many [American] people don’t understand how important this is and how it’s tearing our country’s military apart.
While the Air Force, Navy and Marines have been temporarily barred by court orders from punishing service members who have sought religious exemptions from the vaccination mandate, the military faces no such restrictions.
“Downgraded, lowered and lowered”
After four years of service, Army Specialist John Sisler (a pseudonym) said his immediate command in September 2021 initially supported his request for religious accommodation to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate. To this day, he is still awaiting a final decision.
While other unvaccinated soldiers were turned away, Sisler slipped through the cracks earlier this year and was allowed to attend the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif. After completing about two of the four weeks of valuable training, command changed its mind. “They took me out of the box,” he said. “I begged to stay, because I didn’t want to miss practice or leave the people I was training with.”
Sisler then returned to a rear detachment and was told that his religious accommodation package had been lost. “I was given about six hours to resubmit everything by the end of the day,” he said. “Fortunately, I had the means to keep all the documents from before and used them to resubmit and get new signatures from a brand new order.”
A few months ago, the new package was not refused, but “rejected and returned”, he said. “All my papers came back because they were supposedly incomplete.” According to him, it was not complete because a senior officer failed to properly document and file one of the documents. After that, he said, “everyone except the religious leader, the chaplain, recommended a denial.”
And rather than being allowed to restart the package, Sisler said, “the package was pushed back to the top without my approval in the months that followed; it was rejected without my recognition and my signature. As a result, upon his return, Sisler said he was “taking everything from the Inspector General and filing complaints regarding all broken rules and illegal actions.”
As he waits for that next step, Sisler said he’s been “degraded, belittled and belittled” in his new unit. When there is a face-to-face formation of soldiers, he is told to “go away”. Strangely, he’s also not included in “group chats” or “social messaging” which would usually help him stay informed. The intent here, he believes, is to “say that I didn’t report, so they can start demoting or punishing me.”
“I was told I was not a real soldier and would be kicked out of the army,” Sisler said. “I am being treated unfairly because of my religious objection to the vaccine.” He also said some commanders are “just waiting for religious objectors to be expelled.” As he awaits a final decision on his request for religious accommodation, he said: “I just keep my head down and try to get out when I can.”
Miller and Sisler emphasized that their views do not reflect those of the Department of Defense or the Department of the Army. Neither the Department of Defense nor the Department of the Army responded to Epoch Times requests for comment.