- The Washington Times - Monday, October 3, 2022

A Coast Guard member who was publicly thanked by President Biden for his heroics during Hurricane Ian will reportedly be discharged because he hasn’t gotten his COVID-19 vaccine.

Mr. Biden recently thanked Aviation Survival Technician Second Class Zach Loesch and Lt. Cmdr. Christopher Hooper for saving people in southwestern Florida as part of a team of rescue boats and helicopters.

“The president thanked them for saving lives and asked for a report on the work that continues to rescue Floridians,” a White House readout said. “He also asked if they needed any additional support that he can provide to accelerate successful rescues; they indicated they have gotten what they need to execute their vital mission.”

Yet Petty Officer Loesch told Breitbart he expects to be discharged within 30 to 60 days for failing to get the vaccine after his request for a religious accommodation was denied.

“If I had asked any of the people I saved yesterday if they wanted to come with me even though I am unvaccinated, every single one of them would have said ‘yes,’” he told the publication.

Mr. Biden’s decision last year to require military members to get the vaccine kicked up a firestorm.

The Pentagon said the rules are necessary to ensure military readiness. But critics of the policy say it is having the opposite effect of nudging servicemen and women out of the forces and making the U.S. less competitive.

The U.S. Coast Guard falls under the purview of the Department of Homeland Security, which in August 2021 issued a similar vaccine mandate as the Department of Defense.

Rep. Mike Waltz, Florida Republican, said Petty Officer Loesch is one of 2,600 Coast Guard members who could be kicked out over the vaccine policy.

“The disabled woman in a wheelchair that he strapped to himself and extracted and save her life — she didn’t care that he hadn’t received a vaccine,” Mr. Waltz told Fox News.

He said it makes no sense to require a vaccine that may protect you from severe disease but does not cancel out the transmission of the virus from person to person.

“It is clear the vaccine doesn’t stop the spread. One could argue it made sense when we thought that it did, but it no longer does. This is an extremely healthy population, so the argument that it’s going to affect readiness, just doesn’t hold water at all,” Mr. Waltz said. “On top of it all, guys, we have a major recruiting crisis.”

The Navy kicked out or “separated” 1,712 members for refusing the vaccine, while the Marines separated 3,436 and the Army dismissed 1,722, according to the latest updates in September.

Federal courts this year enjoined the Air Force from issuing disciplinary actions against members who submitted their requests for a religious accommodation on time, though the issue is wending its way through the appeals courts.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment about Petty Officer Loesch‘s situation.

For more information, visit The Washington Times COVID-19 resource page.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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