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Huizenga op-ed: Hire back troops discharged because of Biden's COVID-19 mandate

Millions of Americans have had their lives impacted by President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandates. Whether you drive a truck, work in health care or serve in the armed forces, your job may have been threatened by the Biden administration.

This coercive approach puts Washington in charge of making very personal health decisions. The message from the Biden Administration was very clear: If you don’t follow the mandate, you could lose your job or your employer will be severely fined. Thankfully the Supreme Court struck down the Occupational Safety and Health Administration mandate, providing much needed relief for employers, employees and families across Michigan.

Sadly, one area that hasn’t garnered as much attention as it should is the mandate's impact on our servicemen and women. When Biden made the decision to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for members of the military, his administration was going to dishonorably discharge those who did not want the vaccine.

This would have negatively impacted future opportunities for the men and women serving our nation who refused the vaccine.

A dishonorable discharge would have meant these service members would be denied any veteran benefits. It can also make it much more difficult for individuals to find work in civilian life. In the past, a dishonorable discharge was handed down by a court-martial for serious offenses such as sexual assault, murder or desertion.

I found this action to be completely unacceptable. Thankfully this punitive action was eliminated when Congress passed — and I supported — the National Defense Authorization Act. The result for those who refused to take the vaccine was that they would still be discharged but remain eligible for benefits.

To be clear, I don’t think these men and women should have been discharged at all for exercising their religious or medical freedom.

That is why I am proud to join Congressman and Army veteran Brian Mast in supporting the Vaccine Mandate Reenlistment Act. This important legislation would require the Secretaries of the Army, Navy and Air Force to reinstate, at their previous rank, the soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines who were separated from service following Biden’s vaccine mandate.

It is not a small number of soldiers who refuse to take the vaccine. As of Jan. 26, the Army reported that 3,350 soldiers have refused to get the vaccine. This is roughly the size of three battalions.

Additionally, thousands of servicemen and women have applied for religious or medical waivers with most stuck in an arduous adjudication process as reprimands are handed down.

The Vaccine Mandate Reenlistment Act fixes a problem created by the Biden administration and strengthens military readiness at the same time. I believe those who want to serve our nation but were discharged over the COVID-19 vaccine should be rehired.

Our military relies on those who are ready and willing to serve, and I think it is a mistake to show well-trained service members the door over a COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Holland, serves Michigan’s 2nd congressional district.

This piece was originally published online by the Detroit News on February 12, 2022

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