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Horowitz: What will Gov. Abbott do with vax mandate in the Texas National Guard?

Op-ed
Jon Cherry/Getty Images

These were supposed to be part-time citizen soldiers, but so many of them have served multiple tours of duty in the Middle East. More recently, nearly all of them are at the Texas-Mexico border attempting to do the job the federal government won’t do. Now that same federal government is threatening to terminate thousands of Texas guardsmen if they fail to get a shot that quite literally is outdated, and numerous data points and testimony from military doctors raise concerns about adverse reactions. Will Texas Gov. Greg Abbott stand up for his Guard? What about other GOP governors?

The Biden administration officials know that with mounting opposition to COVID mandates, they must let some of the pressure out of the balloon and ease some of the restrictions affecting the average family. But they also understand that the military is a minority of the minority and that they can get away with illogical and illegal mandates on it for far longer. At present, it appears that no number of facts on the ground will change the minds in the Pentagon in terminating their July 1 deadline on all Army soldiers, including state guardsmen, to receive the experimental shots. While the damage has already been done in most circles of the active-duty military, there are thousands of Texas guardsmen who have not gotten the shots and are now starring down the barrel of losing their careers and all retirement benefits.

Here are the most recent vaccination numbers released by the Texas Military Department obtained by the Blaze:

As you can see, just 47% of the Texas Army National Guard are fully vaccinated, and 45% — accounting for 8,750 troops – have not begun the shots. At the border, 48% of the soldiers, nearly 3,000 of them, are unvaccinated, according to my source. And from speaking to two sources on the ground in the Texas Guard, it appears that most of them will refuse to get the shots. Will Gregg Abbott allow them to be terminated? Will Republicans in the U.S. Senate vote for the upcoming budget bill that continues to fund the DOD mandate?

The obvious question everyone should be asking is why are the GOP governors not uniting at a meeting and declaring the DOD mandate null and void? Remember, while governors have no control over the active-duty military, they do control the chain of command for disciplinary actions in their respective guards, absent a “Title 10” order from the president. At a minimum, each governor should direct the adjunct general of the Guard to announce that the state plans to fight the mandates and will dismiss any officer who encourages, much less coerces, soldiers to get the shots. That is fully within the legal authority of a governor.

Obviously, the Biden administration could use purse strings to gain leverage by threatening to cut off funding for the soldiers, but it’s hard for Biden to stand before America with waning popularity both for himself and the mandates and threaten to deny pay to the guardsmen in half the states. But that would require Republican governors to get on the playing field and pick the fight first.

The problem is that the Texas Military Department officials in charge of health issues in the Guard are downright on the same side as Biden, even though they work for Greg Abbott, who issued an order banning the mandate! In December, the Office of the Joint Surgeon of the Texas Military Department sent out a letter to doctors scoffing at religious exemptions and essentially ordering them into bullying soldiers to get the shots. The letter was publicized by Allen West, who is one of the candidates challenging Abbott for the GOP nomination on March 1.

Despite recognizing the governor’s order, the letter implores the doctors to take sides. “As a reminder, it is our job to convince Soldiers to receive the vaccine. If you, personally are not able to fulfill this role, please, privately message the State Surgeon.”

What about medical exemptions?

“If we do, and you authorize a temporary or permanent medical exemption for the COVID19 vaccine: ensure that you document (SF 600, uploaded to HRR or open an eCase); ensure that the appropriate exemption code is entered into MWD; and anticipate your decision will come under EXTREME scrutiny. Be prepared to justify it.”

What about religious exemptions?

“Read the regulation. See also AR 600-20. Ever seen a religious exemption for vaccines? NO! You haven't. That kid was administratively separated during IET. Soldiers will try. Soldiers will fail.”

Folks, this is not coming from the DOD or a blue state. This is the Texas Guard’s State Surgeon Peter Coldwell, who works for Adjunct General Tracy Norris – both of whom serve at the pleasure of the governor. How can this continue for even one day in Texas? Abbott claimed to have banned even private businesses from mandating the shot, yet he has his own state employees promising to make the lives of the Texas guardsmen miserable for not getting the shots.

Also, how can the Texas Guard leadership blow off concerns about medical problems, when in a Feb. 1 letter they admit the problem of adverse events? In that letter, they encourage soldiers to get the shots in the military (as opposed to a Walgreens) because then they will be eligible for medical compensation for line-of-duty injury in case of adverse events.

How can something like this be forced upon them? Consider the following points:

  • The military does not allow any vaccine mandate on experimental shots. There currently is no shot that is fully approved and available to service members. A federal judge in Florida agreed that Comirnaty, the approved injection with a license number, is not the same as the Pfizer shot available to the public, which is still operating under EUA.
  • How can they mandate a shot that not only fails to stop transmission but appears to have gone negative? My source in the Texas Guard tells me that over the past few weeks, 71% of the cases among those at the border are vaccinated, even though the background vaccination rate is only 52% among those soldiers.

With negative efficacy of the shots, most soldiers having had the virus already, and so many reported injuries in the military, is it really that hard for Republican governors to stand up for their guardsmen? With Biden’s polling in the toilet, many Democrat governors looking for an off-ramp, and the public finally realizing they’ve been scammed, is it too much to ask for GOP senators to fight the mandates in the budget bill?

Gov. Abbott, for his part, has asked the federal courts for a temporary injunction against the mandate. He may or may not succeed, but the courts (given their track record) cannot be the end-all. He is right that the governor of Texas does not take orders from the president. But it’s time to start acting the part. It would also help if he would start by cleaning up his own generals.

It’s time for the tyrants in Washington to learn what state sovereignty really is.
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