Kentucky GOP Rep. Thomas Massie took heat and won praise over the Fourth of July weekend for tweeting that “members of our voluntary military” contacted him, threatening to “quit” if ordered to take a COVID-19 vaccination.
As of Tuesday, the Saturday tweet had more than 8,700 likes and more than 17,000 comments, sparking ongoing debates in 280 characters among respondents.
While some agreed with Massie, others noted that other vaccinations are required for all military personnel and quitting the military is considered being absent without leave. The congressman from Lewis County represents Northern Kentucky.
Massie’s tweet followed his June 14 introduction of H.R. 3860, which would prohibit mandatory COVID vaccines for members of the Armed Forces. As of Tuesday, the bill has 23 cosponsors, all members of the Republican Party.
Twitter user and Army veteran @VictorB123 replied, “I have been vaccinated against diseases that have probably never been seen before in the US. It was *required* that I receive them. This politicking with Covid is not only stupid, it is dangerous to our national security.”
Another Twitter user, @TinResistAgain, said that while he was General of the Continental Army, George Washington inoculated his troops against the smallpox outbreak.
Massie kept tweeting Monday and Tuesday, saying, “NO ONE should be forced or coerced by ANYONE to take the COVID vaccine. The fact that policy discussions in the US are centered around “proof of vaccine” instead of ‘evidence of immunity’ shows that science and reason have been drummed out by politics, profits, and superstition.”
The Army Times reported that commands have been ordered to prepare to administer mandatory vaccines as early as September. Kentucky is home to Fort Knox and Fort Campbell as well as National Guard units.
According to Findlaw, a member of the military is absent without leave (AWOL) if they abandon an appointed place without authorization or fail to arrive at an appointed place. Desertion occurs if they leave without intent to return or if they are AWOL for 30 days.
Although punishment varies depending on the severity of the offense, it often entails “forfeiture of pay and confinement,” according to Findlaw.
Twitter comments also cited the Uniform Code of Military Justice Article 92, which says that military personnel who do not obey an order or regulation or who are derelict in their duties are subject to a court-martial, according to Cornell Law School.
Massie noted those contacting him were members of the “volunteer military.” According to the Selective Service System, the lottery system was last used in March 1975. Since then, service in the Armed Forces has been voluntary.