My name is John Frankman.
Up until very recently, I was a Captain in the United States Army serving as a Green Beret at 7th Special Forces Group (7SFG). On July 1st, I voluntarily separated from the Army due to struggles I encountered because I refused to get the mandatory COVID-19 vaccine. I can now speak freely about my experiences since I am no longer on active duty.
Throughout the implementation of the COVID-19 vaccine, the rights of service members' consciences were not respected. During that time, the highest levels of the Department of Defense obscured information about the legality of the mandate, the medical safety of the shot, and the ethical implications of these vaccines. Most leaders, even if concerned about the shot, were ignorant about its medical side effects and the legality of the order.
Military leaders, rather than taking responsibility for their service members' well-being and critically asking about the potential negative effects of the shot and mandate, realized failing to conform would be detrimental to their careers. As a result, service members' morale and trust in leadership is extremely low.
Although many service members were forced out because of the vaccine mandate, many more are leaving because they are disillusioned with the military as the institution forced them to choose between their career or their conscience, health, and well-being.
Now, the military is a less lethal force than it should be as it wasted immense time and energy focusing on forcing service members to conform, rather than to train, all while facing a major recruiting and retention problem.
I’m writing so that military leaders can learn from their mistakes concerning the implementation of the COVID-19 vaccines for when something like this happens in the future.
I’m also writing to inform the public of the situation in the military so they can put pressure on political leaders to enact policies to treat service members properly and refrain from any action that compromises their morale, health, and conscience.
Finally, I’m encouraging all people to think critically when future crises arise so as to not give way to propaganda and social pressure, especially when it goes against one’s values, individual liberty and common sense.
Edmund Burke said that, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” In order to avoid these evils in the future, each of us must inform and follow our consciences, especially those in authority such as military leaders.
In sharing, I want to be fair to my leadership and those at 7SFG. Leaders at all levels felt immense pressure from President Biden and the general officers to get every soldier vaccinated. Furthermore, there was nothing legally, ethically, or medically clear about the vaccine or the mandate.
To the extent that they could, they supported me in my situation, and from the majority, I didn’t experience any animosity. Other service members were not as fortunate. However, that does not totally remove their responsibility.
All leaders could have and should have done more to resist the vaccine mandate. Especially Special Forces Green Berets who are selected for their critical thinking skills and trained to identify a psychological operation meant to influence the populace.
As soon as the vaccines became available in January of 2021, the push to get all soldiers vaccinated began. Military leaders at all levels made being vaccinated a “readiness” issue and wielded whatever authority and power they had—legal or otherwise—to coerce individuals into getting vaccinated.
As a Special Forces Team Leader, I told my men I would neither punish nor reward them for receiving the shot and that I personally did not want to take it.
The majority of my team opted not to get the shot, with only two of the 12 members choosing to take the vaccine before the official mandate. The primary concern was the vaccine’s emergency use authorization (EUA) status and that therefore the drug companies could not be held liable for side effects.
By early 2021, we were all aware that these shots were experimental and already associated with some side effects. All of us were healthy individuals without any comorbidities and as such the risk for suffering dangerous reaction to COVID was low. Many team members already contracted COVID providing natural immunity.
We were also aware that every vaccine created up until that point was tested and/or created utilizing aborted fetal cells.
As a result of my team’s choices before the mandate was in place, my team sergeant and I were constantly harassed by the Company Sergeant Major. At one point he told me, I was screwing up my career and that he would kick guys on my team out of the company and send them to undesirable assignments if their vaccine status lost missions. Multiple times he specified, ‘this was not a threat, but a promise.’
In one conversation with the Company Commander, I brought up the fact that the vaccine seemed unsafe by referencing death statistics as cited in the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS).
There were already reported a few thousand deaths associated with the COVID vaccines in early 2021, but this concern wasn’t taken seriously. Even before the mandate began, either 1st Special Forces Command or US Army Special Operations Command made vaccination a requirement for deployment. This policy forced leaders to “mitigate risk” and not permit unvaccinated Special Forces soldiers to deploy, even if there was no vaccination requirement for the country. Thus, my team had to choose to either receive the vaccine to deploy to a country with no vaccine requirement or to give up the mission. My team chose to lose the mission. The loss was heartbreaking.
Shortly after the vaccine mandate officially came into effect, my team was engaged in a massive two-week training exercise involving thousands of soldiers in the middle of the woods in Fort Polk, LA. During a pause in training, leadership found it so important to administratively write up or counsel us that they sent a Major to the training area.
We were ordered to review the information provided about the vaccine, discuss any concerns we have with our medical provider, and comply with the vaccine mandate within 72 hours under threat that we would be ordered to receive the vaccine.
I immediately expressed to my leadership that it isn’t fair to force service members to make a career and life-altering decision under duress and without the proper medical, religious, and legal resources and that having this hanging over our heads would take away all training value. Fortunately, the official counseling were pushed back by about two weeks till after training.
Upon returning to the home base after training, leadership counseled my team. During the counseling multiple members of my team raised the fact that “Comirnaty” was the only shot to receive FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approval and that everything else available was only approved under EUA.
The SECDEF memo stated, “Mandatory vaccination against COVID-19 will only use COVID-19 vaccines that receive full licensure from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in accordance with FDA-approved labeling and guidance.”
Thus, the order seemed to be illegal. Furthermore, leadership did not accept medical exemptions based on prior immunity or infection contradicting its prior policy in Army Regulations 50-562. Notwithstanding, Soldiers who still were not vaccinated, either had to get the shot within 72 hours of the counseling or receive UCMJ punishment. On October 5, 2021, the day after getting counseled, I submitted a request for a religious exemption.
For over a year, I received no response until December of 2022 when all religious exemptions were dropped when Congress forced the President and Secretary of Defense to stop punishing service members for their vaccine status.
During this extended period of limbo, I was selected for an assignment to become a professor at the United States Military Academy at West Point. Ironically, I was selected to teach philosophy and an ethics course.
Sadly, service members with pending religious exemptions were unable to move, deploy, or travel, meaning I was stuck. Because of this restriction and failure to receive a verdict on my religious exemption, I lost the opportunity to teach at West Point.
In September of 2022, I asked a General during a town hall meeting if the DoD was considering dropping the mandate since the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recently declared there was no distinction between the vaccinated and unvaccinated.
The General asked me if I heard of Novavax, to which I responded that it also utilizes aborted fetal cells. Seeming perplexed by my response, the General said, ‘when the Army tells you to do something, you should do it, and that he doesn’t want to kick anyone out, but would if necessary.’
In November of 2022, during my exit interview with a Colonel, I asked whether the vaccine mandate was legal, whether he knew it required an FDA approved shot to be legal, whether he had heard of the Nuremberg Code, and if the unit was doing anything to track down vaccine injuries.
In response I was accused of being extremist, reminded that the crusades are an example of what happens when there is too much ideology, questioned if I followed selfless leadership, and asked what I would say to a fellow Christian or Catholic that received the shot.
I responded that I was at peace and believed my actions to be selfless as I followed my conscience and did what I believed to be the right thing. I also responded that I would ask a fellow Catholic or Christian if it is justifiable to take a drug linked to an abortion; the murder of an unborn human and continued theft of its body parts and products; for a disease with over a 99.99% survival rate.
After years of pressure and the situation changing seemingly at a whim, I am separating from the Army. I am leaving because although the vaccine mandate is no longer in effect, it cost me the opportunity to teach and form cadets at West Point, cut my team leader time short, and cost me other career opportunities.
At this point, I believe that God can use the gifts, talents, and passions He gave me to serve Him in a better way. I also fear that any good I could potentially do in the military, would be drastically nullified based on the guidance and leadership coming from politicians and top military brass.
The DoD’s forced vaccination program ran counter to my leadership and military training. Leaders must do everything they can to implement force protection and mitigate risk to the greatest extent possible.
Leaders did none of this and at the highest level ignored their own medical policy. Very early on, there were reports that the COVID 19 vaccines were ineffective and harmful.
However, leadership still vigorously asserted every individual needed to get the shot even though it was only under an emergency use authorization, and despite the fact that a healthy soldier can easily handle a case of COVID 19, and notwithstanding that many had already contracted COVID 19 and had natural immunity.
Leaders willfully ignored the hazards of the vaccine and if they didn’t, they were complicit for pushing an experimental drug. They could have at least asked the common-sense question of whether it was wise to force the entire population responsible for the defense of our nation to take an experimental drug when the disease isn’t a serious risk and the side effects of that drug are unknown.
However, nearly every leader still vehemently pushed this drug on their service members.
Leadership at the very top played sadistic political games by offering EUA approved drugs while calling them FDA approved and punished service members by ruining their careers and threatening their livelihoods. To those highest-level leaders belongs the harshest condemnation.
When do we take a stand? When do we think critically? How can we justify following an order to the detriment of our own country’s defense and the health and wellbeing of the servicemembers themselves?
For most leaders, even if they had an ounce of thought that this order was nonsensical or that they personally disagreed with it, they knew it would negatively affect their career so they readily acquiesced.
If they felt bad about it later, they justified it by saying there was nothing they could do, or that no one knew any better early on, or that everything was pretty wild back then.
One senior officer told me he just wants to move on past this whole shot thing. And to that, I say “No!” Military leaders need to return to the basics of leadership and reexamine the guiding principles of our profession and what the United States of America stands for.
The obvious lesson learned is we need to think critically and do the right thing no matter what, even when it is difficult. However, everybody knows this, though it is rarely done. Rather what is needed is for every leader to reflect deeply on their core beliefs, values, and principles.
Only then will we be able to break with what is expedient and be willing to sacrifice temporal gain for immaterial principles? This doesn’t necessarily have to be a religious conversion but could be a deep sense of patriotism, love for freedom and what America stands for, and remembrance of our oath to the Constitution. This will shore up the intestinal fortitude to do the right thing.
The need for critical thought and morale fortitude extends beyond that of military leaders. Individual citizens also must exercise their civic duties by staying appraised of current events and getting involved in the culture and politics at all levels of government.
Unfortunately, as hopefully most of us have learned from the pandemic, media sources cannot be outright trusted for their truthfulness and authenticity.
There are powerful forces at play dedicating countless dollars to condition us to think a certain way, and we all must be careful to ensure we each don’t give in to our own individual confirmation bias where we agree with what we want to hear.
Citizens must protect their rights and responsibilities if they want to maintain a country of the people, for the people, and by the people. This will require them, as well as military leaders, to identify core values and beliefs, think critically, and do the right thing no matter what.
Rather than moving on from this ordeal as it is an uncomfortable topic, we must face it head-on to learn from our failures and respond to future challenges properly. Our military and our nation, but more importantly, our character and honor depend on it.
— John Frankman