As previously reported, the Biden administration’s military vaccine mandate has threatened to eject thousands of soldiers from the Texas National Guard. A recent enlistee came forward to say the threat remains and to share her faith-based stand against the mandate.

Background
In March 2021, in response to citizen anger over rampant illegal border crossings into Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott launched Operation Lone Star (OLS), Texas’ border security action. Months later, after ongoing criticism for OLS’ poor execution, Abbott fired Texas Adjutant General (TAG) Tracy Norris, the state’s then-top military commander. He replaced her with Maj. Gen. Thomas Suelzer.

Continued violations of Texas’ sovereignty by illegal border crossings, and ongoing federal apathy, present an opportunity for Texans to serve their state. However, federal military vaccine mandates present a new bar that requires Texans surrender their religious and medical rights if they wish to serve.

Last August, Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order forbidding vaccine mandates in the Texas military. On January 4, 2022, Attorney Gen. Ken Paxton sued the Biden administration for mandating members of the U.S. military receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

It appears that wasn’t enough. In mid-January, former Maj. Gen. Charles Aris of the 36th Infantry Division in Texas said in a military town hall that approximately 8,000 soldiers risked being expelled from the Texas National Guard. He held little hope that Texas’ lawsuit would save the day.

Since then, more reports have surfaced of how Biden’s military vaccine mandate threatens to hollow out America’s armed forces. On June 28, U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson (R–LA) published a thread of Twitter posts on the subject. “At this moment, 13% of the National Guard, 10% of the Reserve, and at least 24,250 active soldiers face expulsion for not receiving the mandatory COVID vaccine,” he wrote. “In some states, approximately 25% of National Guardsmen are unvaccinated.”

Fox News Digital reported on July 8 that around 57,000 members of the National Guard and Army Reserve will have their pay and benefits cut off, simply for not complying with the Biden mandate. “Defund the entire [Dept. of Defense],” Wade Miller, a former Marine and current executive director of Citizens for Renewing America, tweeted in response to the news.

Revealing how this still remains an issue, South Texas Congresswoman Mayra Flores (R) announced in a September 8 press release that she co-sponsored legislation with Congressman Thomas Massie (R–TN) to end the Biden military mandate.

“The time to drop this ridiculous mandate in our armed forces is now. Not only is it putting our mission readiness at risk, but it’s also unnecessarily impacting or ending the careers of so many talented, young, and healthy service members,” she stated. “Medical decisions should be made at the patient-doctor level, not by politicians and bureaucrats. It’s time for reason and common sense to prevail.”

She also noted a report from NBC News stating that “every branch of the military is struggling to make its 2022 recruitment goals.”

But to what extent is this affecting Texas soldiers?

In June, one came forward with her story.

An Enlistee’s Story
“I feel discriminated [against] religiously.”

Those are the words of Crystal Demaret, who enlisted in the Texas National Guard in March. “I wanted to serve my country,” she told Texas Scorecard. She provided documentation showing her enlistment.

Demaret said she had been shipped out to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, on May 23 for basic combat training. She was then told she had to leave. Why? Because she had not received a COVID-19 vaccination.

“I informed them that I was not going to get my COVID shot because I had a religious exemption in process,” Demaret told Texas Scorecard. “They told me that Greg Abbott appointed a TAG in March, and, as soon as he entered the office, he removed religious exemptions.” She said she was told the only religious exemption that matters is the one approved by the surgeon general.

Demaret provided us with copies of her application for a religious exemption, submitted when she enlisted in March. In it, she writes about her Roman Catholic faith and moral opposition to using products created with the remains of aborted babies. She writes of a deposition of Dr. Stanley Plotkin, who admitted “that in just one study, out of several conducted” for vaccines, he used 76 fetuses that were three months or older. She wrote he admitted he had used body parts like tongues, pituitary glands “that were chopped up into pieces,” hearts, lungs, and more.

“I testify to the truth that abortion must be rejected and make a choice that is consistent with the dignity of every human life,” Demaret wrote.

On July 6, Texas Scorecard contacted the Texas Military Department and gave them an opportunity to confirm and comment on the veracity of this and other records Demaret provided relating to her religious exemption application. No response was received before publication.

For refusing to be vaccinated, Demaret said she was subjected to weeks of pressure at Fort Jackson. She said she was told if she did not get vaccinated, she’d receive a Chapter 14 dishonorable discharge.

A soldier, who wished to remain anonymous, told Texas Scorecard Demaret was given the run-around at Fort Jackson and made to stay longer than necessary.

Demaret said she tried to ask the commander of her battalion, a “Captain Clark” of Bravo Company, for answers as to why this was happening to her. Demaret said Clark instead started the process to dishonorably discharge her and sent her to behavioral health.

When she asked the liaison office at Fort Jackson if she could show her exemption paperwork, Demaret says they replied they could find nothing and informed her she could either be discharged at Fort Jackson or request a REFRAD at the liaison office.

“REFRAD means that he’s going to send me back to my state, and I have 18 to 24 months to complete basic combat training,” Demaret explained. “If not, they will determine my fate.” She said she was told that even if she’s a REFRAD, the punishment remains the same for not getting a COVID vaccination.

She chose the REFRAD option and was sent back to Texas.

Demaret said she wasn’t the only one targeted at Fort Jackson. “I witnessed the commander speak to the new trainees, asking, ‘Who here did not get their COVID shot?’” Demaret said “a handful” responded, and the commander summoned them up front. “She would speak to them, aside from everyone else, telling them, ‘If you don’t get the COVID shot, you’re going to be dishonorably discharged. You won’t be able to find a job, or find any job in federal, or anything that takes government money.’”

Apparently, this type of attitude was prevalent among leadership there. “I would overhear comments from the drill sergeant saying that we were a waste of money.”

But neither were Demaret and her peers alone in being threatened with dishonorable discharge if they refused to get vaccinated. Multiple members of the military from other states spoke with us, also wishing to remain anonymous. One is part of another state’s National Guard. This member claimed they were told if they were not vaccinated, they could be discharged or face jail time.

Another is in the U.S. Army. This soldier claimed he knew of about four others threatened with being kicked out for not getting vaccinated. These four were from different states and different branches of the military, not just the National Guard. This soldier expects at least one person in each platoon, when new recruits are added, will be thrown out as long as the Biden vaccine mandate remains in place.

This soldier says the method of medical discharge was being used, and he heard of a Chapter 14 dishonorable discharge being used starting in late May. When the mandate was announced, however, he did not remember being told that would be a punishment. He did recall being told you could be charged at the federal level. This soldier also claimed that exemptions would not be considered unless a soldier was of high rank.

And, as Demaret’s story shows, Texans are not being adequately protected.

Another member of the Texas National Guard, who asked to remain anonymous, also spoke with Texas Scorecard. This soldier said they had applied for an exemption for the COVID-19 vaccination months ago and were repeatedly told it was in processing; in June, however, they were told the exemption had been sent back. In addition, this soldier was told by their chain of command that the requirements had been changed. This soldier believes the changes came from the federal government. When the soldier asked about reapplying, he said he was told it likely wouldn’t be approved, and even if it was, the U.S. Army would likely discharge him at training for not being vaccinated.

While at Fort Jackson, Demaret tried reaching out to multiple people for help. One person was Sgt. Hockett, who had recruited her. She provided copies of their text message exchange. In it, she describes how she’s been threatened with “the worst possible dishonorable discharge and court martial.” Hockett replied she would be discharged, but it would not be dishonorable and she can continue refusing vaccination. “They ain’t gonna do — besides tell you to go home,” he wrote. “If I were you I’d get out. It’s not worth the hassle.”

 

“I said, ‘But I want to fight. This is not right,’” Demaret told us. “And if I’m not fighting this, then who will?”

Enlistment
Demaret provided records showing that, even back in March when she enlisted in Texas and applied for the religious exemption, she was pressured to get vaccinated.

According to these records, Demaret had to watch “an educational video on the benefits of vaccination,” after which she was directed by her immediate commander “to comply with the [vaccination] order.” When she refused again, she had to meet “with a medical professional to discuss the vaccine and any concerns.”

Included in these records is a counseling summary that outlines possible consequences for remaining unvaccinated. It states that continued refusal “may result in initiation of a bar to reenlistment, administration action to include your separation from the service, and/or punitive action under the TCMJ or UCMJ.” If refusal continues, “action may be initiated to involuntarily separate you from the service,” in which case a soldier “could receive an Honorable, General Under Honorable Conditions, or Other than Honorable discharge.”

Demaret provided records of two medical providers counseling her on two separate days regarding her refusal to get vaccinated. The first, dated this March, was conducted by the Texas Army National Guard.

According to the records of these counseling steps, Demaret was ordered again “to comply.” She refused, and continued to apply for the religious exemption.

Holding Pattern
Since coming back to Texas, Demaret has been in a holding pattern. On July 6, she didn’t know if she would be going back to training or not. She forwarded us emails of her repeatedly asking in July if she would be able to attend drills. “If I miss drill, then I’m in trouble,” she said.

On August 28, she received an email saying they were “correcting” her vaccine exemption packet and that it would be resubmitted. Until that process was complete, she could not attend drills.

Demaret also provided screenshots of a series of text messages between her and Staff Sergeant Garcia from this August. “They never sent back your packet with any errors in the beginning, that’s why [we’re] all confused why you had issues at reception [Fort Jackson],” he wrote. He told her it had been confirmed that her packet could be resubmitted and asked if she wanted to stay in the National Guard. She said yes.

The August 28 email she received does contain something curious about her possible future. It shows that email is in response to a question from MSG Josh Ray with the Texas Army National Guard. Referring to Demaret, he asked, “Where are we at with this Soldier’s discharge?”

“It’s a waiting game for me, and it’s kind of nerve-racking,” Demaret told Texas Scorecard in September.

In our next article, we will talk with two more in the Texas National Guard who have had to fight against the Biden vaccine mandate. If you or someone you know in the Texas military are facing consequences for not receiving a COVID-19 vaccination, please contact us at rmontoya@texasscorecard.com

Robert Montoya

A former filmmaker, University of North Texas graduate, and one-time assistant language teacher, Robert Montoya misses Japan and the 1980s. He is an investigative reporter for Texas Scorecard.

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