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OPINION | EDITORIAL: The troops really don't have an option with the vaccine

That’s the thing about the military October 13, 2021 at 3:51 a.m.

A wise guy once said that military justice is to justice what military music is to music. That's one of many jokes the grunts make. But they know: If you're looking for almsgiving and indulgence, maybe you shouldn't have signed up for the United States military. You'll get a lot of training, experience, and three squares a day, but not so much with the tenderness.

The news made the front pages, several nightly news programs, and an untold number of websites: The U.S. military is behind, for now, on the percentage of people who've gotten vaccines. But it's doubtful that will continue for long. The deadline is late next month. Soldiers, airmen and Marines are pretty good at making deadlines; not so good at beating them by eight weeks.

The wire report noted that hundreds of thousands of those in uniform--full time or reservists--still aren't fully immunized against covid-19. A friend who retired from the military recently sent us an email in frustration: These people took an oath to take a bullet for the country, but they won't take a vaccine? We think he's a little too fast on the draw in his criticism. Give 'em time, sir.

But this bit of news did catch our eye, like a nail: There has been a spike in deaths among military reservists and: "In September, more military personnel died of coronavirus infections than in all of 2020. None of those who died were fully vaccinated ... ."

NB: There are more than 2 million people in the U.S. military, and only 62 have died of covid. Still, these are people who could pass a military PT test. They could do dozens of push-ups, dozens of sit-ups, and run two miles with no problem. These people are in shape. They aren't the obese elderly with smoking habits. We'd like to hear the covid-isn't-that-bad crowd explain that.

The papers say that 90 percent of active-duty Navy personnel is fully vaccinated. But only 72 percent of Marines. Then again, the various branches have staggered deadlines.

Mandatory vaccines for the soldiery is nothing new. At least since a general named Washington required smallpox vaccinations, inoculations have been compulsory. For the millions of Americans who've been through Basic Training, no one ever asked them if they'd like to refuse shots.

It's part of the deal: The No. 1 ability is availability. You have to be ready if called. And you put unit readiness at risk if you aren't vaccinated against a bug that's causing a pandemic.

This really hasn't been a thing before. When reservists or regular troops are called to go to another country, they must update all their shots to keep them upright during service. Now that there's a virus causing harm in-country, the troops must take the same precautions.

When the mandates first came down from the brass, the number of enlisted and officers getting the shots jumped dramatically. That's what happens with people who are used to following orders.

The troops will get their vaccines. It may take Private Snuffy being told he's almost late, and his re-enlistment bonus is in danger, but he'll get it.

Another phrase for "almost late," we were once told, is "on time."

Print Headline: Not really an option


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