During the Revolutionary War, smallpox took such a brutal toll on the American military that George Washington believed he had no choice but to "inoculate all the troops." The general did exactly that in 1777, and as historian Craig Bruce Smith explained this week, Washington's decision helped save the lives of countless patriots and "undoubtedly helped ensure the survival of the United States."
In the generations that followed, the American military has looked out for its troops in the same way Washington did, and in contemporary times, servicemen and women have long been required to get plenty of shots as part of their service. As Rachel noted on the show last night, those in uniform are currently required to be protected against ailments such as diphtheria and measles.
Depending on where servicemembers may be deployed, troops are required to receive up to 17 different vaccinations.
And now they'll receive another. NBC News reported:
All U.S. military members will be required to get the Covid-19 vaccine by no later than mid-September, according to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, in a memo to the Force. The deadline could be pushed up if the Food and Drug Administration gives final approval to the Pfizer vaccine, which is expected early next month. The military will have the next few weeks "preparing for this transition," said Austin.
It was President Biden who directed Austin to examine the matter, and not surprisingly the president yesterday commended the new mandate. "I am proud that our military women and men will continue to help lead the charge in the fight against this pandemic, as they so often do, by setting the example of keeping their fellow Americans safe," Biden said.
It's an important development for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the importance of protecting the men and women in uniform from a dangerous virus. It's also likely to help improve overall vaccination rates, since the Pentagon is the nation's largest employer.
In a message to servicemembers, Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff noted that the "health and readiness of our force is critical to America's defense." The Army general added, "Mandating vaccines in the military is not new."
I can't say with confidence whether Milley was subtly sending a message to those who are likely to condemn the new policy for political reasons, but such critics will almost certainly exist.
Indeed, it was nearly a month ago when Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) introduced legislation to prohibit the Defense Department from requiring COVID-19 vaccines for servicemembers. It wasn't long before the bill picked up 30 Republican co-sponsors, including notorious members such as Reps. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), and House Freedom Caucus Chairman Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.).
Fortunately, their bill was ignored, and the troops will be protected.