I recall the terror of polio when I was in the third grade. Even at that young age one understood the face of terror. Magazine photos of victims in an iron lung could give you nightmares. We were told to avoid crowds and public swimming pools among other places so as not to catch this contagion.

In fourth grade, 1954, I became a Polio Pioneer, one of the very first to get the Salk Vaccine, and still have the card and button given later to memorialize it. I was also one of the lucky ones who got the actual vaccine and not the placebo in this double blind experiment. I don’t recall a single parent who objected to their child lining up for the shot. In fact, children and parents were so thankful for it and Dr. Jonas Salk despite not knowing early on about possible side effects or really anything else about the vaccine.

In the summer of 1966, the first of two summers at Newport, Rhode Island where I went through Navy OCS (Officer Candidate School), I remember hundreds of us lining up in the gym to receive a passel of inoculations that were administered with one shot from some kind of air gun. Painful it was, but no one objected. The Vietnam War was well underway, and each of us knew that we could end up somewhere in southeast Asia. We were grateful for the protection.

I lived through a period when we had a military draft. Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution provides the power for Congress to raise and maintain an army and a navy. For those who are constitutional literalists, one would think that the Founding Fathers would have included a provision for a draft in light of how inhibiting a draft is of individual freedom. Consider that when one is compelled by law to quit their job, leave their family, perform all tasks and training as directed, put oneself in harm’s way where the probability of losing one’s life is great, is this not one of the greatest infringement’s on control of our bodies that anyone could experience?

There are lots of arguments for and against a mandate for various workers to receive the coronavirus vaccination. Amazing how times have changed. The AJC recently reported that Congressman Barry Loudermilk (R-GA) is a co-sponsor of a bill to overturn President Joe Biden’s executive order mandating that all service members receive the coronavirus vaccine. Loudermilk was quoted saying, “This is a doctor/patient decision, and one that should remain private.”

Loudermilk is an Air Force veteran. One wonders either how much the military has changed over the past few years, or if Loudermilk is more interested in appealing to a base of supporters who oppose vaccine mandates. In 2014, when Loudermilk first ran for Congress, he got caught embellishing his service record by misleading statements and photos suggesting he was a pilot when in fact he was not. He did serve honorably as an NCO (noncommissioned officer), which would not have qualified him to be an aviator, though.

Does Loudermilk not know the close quarters that navy sailors live in on board ships? Does he not recall that one of our aircraft carriers was taken out of service in the Pacific a little more than a year ago because the virus had infected so many of the crew? Could he be that ignorant not to know that fighting men and women on the ground and in the air serve next to each other, that they don’t have a choice on when and where they are assigned, that social distancing is not an option?

For a self-professed conservative and supporter of the military, does it make sense that a congressman would risk our national security by leaving our military preparedness up to individual service members and their doctors to decide if they should be inoculated? Is there some kind of cognitive dissonance occurring in Loudermilk’s head, or is he really the kind of politician that both sides of the political spectrum routinely condemn, i.e. putting his political ambitions and career ahead of doing what is right?

Lawsuits and the voters will decide on the limits of our individual freedom concerning vaccine mandates. It is too early to know how this will play out. The military is different from the private sector and civilian government. Voters should remember that if Loudermilk had his way, if in the unlikely event he could get enough Republicans and Democrats to support this bill, our ability to respond to a 911 or Pearl Harbor attack could severely impair our military response.


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(1) comment

Laura Armstrong

Hi Oliver, interesting column. I suppose you didn't see where the vaccine is proving to be injurious to young military men especially, so much so that doctors are saying it's more dangerous than covid, which has a 99 percent or more survival rate among young, healthy people (the majority of our military). Since when do we endanger our military lives with experimental drugs that have a high incidence of permanent heart damage? Right, you probably shouldn't answer that.

Instead of promoting medical tyranny for a virus that appears to be less debilitating than being a Marine Private in Afghanistan under the command of Joe Biden, you probably should stick to columns about your FBI. Perhaps I might suggest an expose about how the FBI held another "insurrection" in DC Saturday, but nobody came, except a few boys who drove up from Quantico in matching sunglasses! Would love to hear your take on that!

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