SHALIMAR – A mixture of terroir Department of Defense (DoD) Civilian workers and military contract workers spent hours Thursday morning along Eglin Drive protesting federal warrants that require them to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or have an approved exemption.
As of mid-morning Thursday, about two dozen people stood between Gardner Drive and Cherokee Road in Shalimar, holding up signs with slogans opposing the mandates, including “My body, my choice,” “I decide. , not you “and” We are united, divided we fall. “
Several participants revealed frustration with what they see as a bureaucratic muddle surrounding mandates, including basic communication from DoD and employers on vaccine timelines and processing exemption requests for admissible spiritual or health reasons.
Others saw the warrants as overbroad government in that they practically required vaccination as a condition of employment, and many saw them as an infringement on their personal freedoms.
Jolene Williams – who had prepared to be left alone by the side of the road before a friend and word-of-mouth campaign increased the number of protesters – said part of the reason for Thursday’s rally was encourage other DoD employees and contractors who may have concerns about immunization mandates.
âI don’t want anyone to feel like they’re alone out there,â said Williams, who didn’t want to say if she was a DoD employee or a subcontractor, or where she worked. .
Williams is calling for a religious exemption from vaccination warrants.
âFor me, it’s based on my spiritual beliefs,â she said. “I believe that God will continue to protect me as he designed it.”
âI certainly don’t want to lose my job,â Williams said, but added that she was ready to exercise all of her options to not get the shot.
Sue Stanley, a friend of Williams who joined her early in her efforts to organize Thursday’s protest, said her employer – she did not say whether she was a DoD employee or an employee of a sub -contractor – had not provided workers with any guidance on the deposit. for a vaccination exemption, she also doesn’t know if she will have the proper documents filed or a decision made before the fast-approaching deadline.
âThey put the cart before the horse,â Stanley said.
Stanley, like others on Thursday, was also critical for the warrants to apply to people who have already had COVID-19.
“(They) want to impose a vaccine, but (they) ignore our natural immunity,” she said.
For Williams and others at rallying, there was also this larger issue of personal freedom.
âIf we really are free Americans, why are we so forced (regarding COVID-19 vaccination)? Williams asked.
âIt’s a personal choice,â echoed Monte Wyrick-Beebe, who works at Eglin. âIf I walked outside and there were 10 people dead from COVID, then yes I would get the vaccine. “
Mike Mercer, a former special ops soldier who is now a DoD employee at Eglin, took the proposal a step further, calling the vaccine’s mandate “political.”
“I believe it is control. I believe it is socialism,” he said. “This is not the America my friends died for. This is not the America I shed blood for.”
Mercer says he will seek a vaccination exemption for “moral” reasons.
It is not clear whether this would be included in a religious exemption case, but the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission – in a finding not specifically related to the COVID-19 vaccination, but to the religious discrimination – included discrimination against âmoral beliefsâ in its definition of such discrimination.
Mercer, who believes he contracted COVID-19 in the days before it was recognized as a pandemic disease but has not been tested to determine if he has protective antibodies against COVID-19, says he is ready to take action in court against the warrant. This would be based on federal anti-employment discrimination laws as well as other federal regulations related to emergency products within the US military, he said.
âI’m ready to go for the long haul,â Mercer said.
Under current DoD guidelines, any civilian employee who refuses to be vaccinated or to provide proof of vaccination and who does not have an exemption or does not have an exemption request under review, is subject to to progressive discipline.
The sanctions begin with a “five-day counseling and education period,” according to an Oct. 18 DoD memorandum. From there, an unpaid suspension of 14 days or less can be imposed, the last step being termination âfor non-compliance with a direct orderâ.
The deadline for DoD employees to be fully immunized is November 22, but because the DoD does not consider employees to be fully immunized until two weeks after receiving the single dose of a single injection vaccine or the second dose of a double vaccine injection vaccine, the effective deadline is November 8, just over a week away.
The deadline for the vaccination of federal contractors is December 8, but with the two-week period considered to be a full vaccination, the effective deadline is November 24. The federal government has left it to contractors to process their employees’ requests for exemptions. the mandate.