NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – On Wednesday, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee, led a group of 21 Republican governors in sending a letter to congressional leadership, asking them to object to the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for those part of the U.S. Armed Forces.
The letter calls the mandate a national security risk, and it’s left some in limbo.
“I joined at the very late age of 32. My whole entire family is military and so I knew I wanted to join sometime,” said Todd Pembroke.
For Pembroke, service and family have always been at the forefront of his life; however, he never thought it would come at a cost until the vaccine mandate took effect.
“I was the commander of a company, but any commander and first sergeant were automatically relieved of their duties for not having this,” Pembroke explained. “I was unfortunately relieved of my command of my company and then I was put in a holding status.”
Pembroke, along with several others, took a stand against the vaccine. For Pembroke, he explained he filed out a religious exception form, but over a year, later it’s still pending.
“It’s a bit stressful, not knowing your future. Every single month it was unknown whether I would be discharged or not and with discharge comes with losing your benefits, and so, I have a wife and three kids and so that’s health insurance,” explained Pembroke.
One day after Governor Lee’s letter, some Senate Republicans threatened to block the annual defense authorization bill unless Congress agrees to lift the mandate.
They say the move will help the Army meet recruitment goals, which so far have fallen short this year. Nearly 34,000 troops have been discharged from the military for refusing the COVID vaccine. Right now, the group has 20 Senators on board, and they will need 41 to stop the bill.
“We are fighting this fight because we take our obligation to stand with those Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines very seriously,” said Senator Ted Cruz.
However, some worry this major push for change should have come earlier.
“I’m thankful about it for sure, and I hope they can gain some traction and keep the momentum going. On the other hand, however, I just wish that they may have done this earlier perhaps a year ago when this started and it could have saved a lot of us angst and anxiety,” said Pembroke.
On Thursday, the pentagon responded to questions on whether or not the department planned on ending the mandate.
“The vaccine mandate is currently in effect and I’m not going to talk about pending or proposed legislation or speculate on future outcomes,” said Pentagon Press Secretary Pat Ryder.
Ryder explained vaccine requirements are meant to ensure military readiness, “vaccinations whether it’s COVID, influenza, anthrax, those kinds of things, we’re going to insure that our forces are properly vaccinated to be able to carry out their wartime mission.”
The House is expected to bring a draft to the chamber floor next week.