Seemingly lost in the debate over President Joe Biden’s now-rescinded mandatory COVID-19 vaccine policy for the U.S. military was the Coast Guard.
But Rep. Greg Steube did not forget.
The Sarasota Republican last week sent a letter to the commandant of the Coast Guard, Adm. Linda Fagan, arguing for the reinstatement of USCG academy cadets who were dismissed for their refusal to get the jab.
In the letter, Steube asks Fagan to confirm whether such cadets were disenrolled from the academy after the religious exemptions they claimed were rejected.
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According to the Associated Press, the answer appears to be yes. The AP reported last August that the Coast Guard Academy booted seven cadets after denying their religious exemptions to COVID vaccines.
“They were escorted to the gate like they were criminals or something,” said Michael Rose, a lawyer for the cadets. “No one helped them with travel arrangements or gave them any money. … One’s estranged from home and living out of his truck.”
In his letter, Steube told Fagan, “These young men and women truly represent the best and brightest of America, and serving in the Coast Guard as commissioned officers and Academy graduates was a major component of each their individual American Dream.”
Steube encouraged Fagan to allow the dismissed cadets to return to class this month.
He noted that the vaccine mandate was recently repealed in the new defense spending law. Meanwhile, the service faces “multiple lawsuits” over the mandate or the claim to a religious exemption.
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“I urge you to do the right thing and bring these willing young men and women back to the Academy,” wrote Steube, noting that it stood alone among the military service academies in forcing unvaxxed cadets to discontinue their training.
Steube added that the vaccine mandate has a few adverse effects.
It has, he wrote, reduced military readiness, “eroded morale and unit cohesion,” left critical defense jobs unfilled, undermined public confidence in the military, and hurt recruiting.
He closed by asking Fagan if she could provide assurances that cadets will not be dismissed from the academy, denied their commission, prohibited from graduating, or “otherwise discriminated against,” based on vaccine status.
Steube also wanted Fagan to report what she intended to do about previously dismissed cadets and asked if she would work toward “restoring both the readiness and reputation” of the Coast Guard.
In an email to constituents on Sunday, the congressman stated, “The Coast Guard must now do the right thing and bring these willing young men and women who want to serve our country back to the academy.”