NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Hundreds of Tennessee National Guardsmen could be banned from serving the state and country if they don’t comply with a federal COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
Thursday, June 30, was the deadline for all Army Reservists and National Guardsmen to get the shot. That date was handed down from the Department of Defense last fall.
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According to the Tennessee Governor’s Office, approximately 93% of the Tennessee National Guard is vaccinated against COVID-19, but that means a few hundred troops are not. Todd Pembroke is one of them.
“I had a patriotic duty to serve my country, so I joined. I’ve been in the National Guard now for 12 years,” Pembroke said.
Pembroke and hundreds of other Tennessee National Guardsmen aren’t planning on getting the shot for various personal, medical, and religious reasons.
Pembroke says he was already yanked from being a Commander over a group of 80 to 90 soldiers back in December after initially refusing the vaccine. But now there could be other repercussions.
“It was detrimental to the morale of my company and then for me and my family it has been stressful because, if discharged, you lose all your benefits. My family relies on my health insurance benefit that I provide for them, the income as well would be gone,” Pembroke said.
On Thursday morning Governor Bill Lee‘s office said they have not and are not planning to terminate any National Guardsmen at this time. They sent us the following statement:
“The COVID-19 vaccine mandate is a Department of Defense requirement, but we have approved every personal and religious exemption brought forward by members of the Guard. We have also advocated to the DoD that personnel who sought an exemption should receive that same exemption federally, and we are awaiting their response. In the meantime, we have no plans to terminate or dishonorably discharge personnel.”
Pembroke said he submitted a religious exemption months ago, but it’s still pending. He hasn’t received any direct communication about his status but hopes that Governor Lee’s actions will allow him to stay in the Guard.
For more on the vaccine requirements, click HERE.