It's "tragic" that so many members of the military are thinking about leaving the service because of the government's mandate on COVID-19 vaccinations, and their absence will create a national security crisis, Rep. Vicky Hartzler told Newsmax Thursday.
"I have been texting and visiting with many service members in Missouri, and they ... have been going through a heart-wrenching decision-making process with their families," the Missouri Republican said on Newsmax's "Wake Up America." "Many of them are going to decide to walk away from their military careers, and it is breaking their hearts."
The military members have served honorably, but many do not feel comfortable about getting the vaccine for various reasons, she added.
"We're going to have a real national security crisis on our hands, losing these military leaders, these servicemen and women who have served our nation for years, because our government is forcing them to undergo a medical procedure they do not feel comfortable with," she said. "It is wrong."
Hartzler said she and other lawmakers have been speaking out for members of the military who do not want to get the vaccine and calling for Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin or President Joe Biden to allow exemptions that will let them continue to serve the United States.
Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, the prelate overseeing Catholics in the U.S. military, on Tuesday issued a statement supporting members of the service who cite religious reasons for refusing a vaccine. He said that even though the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Vatican officials concluded it's morally acceptable to take the vaccines, freedom of conscience must come first, reports The Washington Post.
Hartzler said she hopes the military will respect Broglio's comments on religious exemptions, but she's concerned that the procedure people must follow to seek the exemption makes the process difficult.
"These service members have to go and be interviewed by a chaplain," she said. "I know several service members have told me they don't feel comfortable with the chaplain, determining whether their concerns are really valid religiously or not."
She added that putting chaplains up to making that decision also leaves them in a "very awkward and difficult position as well."
There are other members of the military with valid medical reasons for not wanting the vaccines, Hartzler pointed out.
"We have threats around the world right now, whether it be China or Russia, Iran or Kim Jong-un," said Hartzler. "That is what our military should be focused on, rather than forcing our military to make these decisions to have to leave the military."
Hartzler also discussed the bottlenecks that are affecting the nation's supply chain and called on companies to move more production back to the United States.
Most of the United States' medical supplies or ingredients come from China, she said, leaving the United States vulnerable.
"We were already talking about bringing back pharmaceutical production, but we also need to be mining rare Earth minerals here, as well as making other just day-to-day products," said Hartzler.
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