LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Fall leaves are beginning to appear across Kentuckiana, and by the time most trees in the region are bare, every active-duty U.S. military member is expected to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
It's part of the Pentagon's mission to administer coronavirus vaccinations for all 1.3 million active-duty service members and the roughly 800,000 military reserve and National Guard members.
"There's a lot of mixed emotions,” Jeremy Harrell, retired U.S. Army Sgt., said following the announcement about the requirement, last month. “There are people waiting until the last minute to get vaccinated."
Four U.S. military branches have set deadlines for when active-duty, reserve and National Guard service members must be vaccinated against COVID-19.
The U.S. Army will follow up next after the Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy.
"When you sign that contract you belong to the United States government,” said retired U.S. Army Sgt. Nicholas Tabor, who sees vaccine mandates as nothing new for those who have served.
"There are some advocates out there that are saying that it should be their own free will, but nobody was doing that when we we're going through boot camp and getting all of our vaccinations,” said Tabor. “Before we deployed we had to get an Anthrax and another shot,” said Tabor.
To be fit to fight, military service members are required to get 17 total vaccines, according to the Military Health System.
Harrell knows about soldiers' issues with vaccines through the Veteran's Club Inc., a nonprofit organization in Shelby County dedicated to supporting veterans and their families throughout the region.
“Nobody ever said that that was right, just because that's what happened and we know that in 2004, the courts had an injunction against the mandatory vaccination program in the military because of the Anthrax vaccine and the side effects that were harming so many service members," said Harrell.
Both veterans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
"We are all human beings, and we all have a voice, but soldiers should be vaccinated," said Tabor.
"We really want to be careful of what we put into the bodies of our only fighting force," Harrell said.
Active-duty units are expected to be fully vaccinated by Dec. 15, 2021.
The Reserve and National Guard units have until June 30, 2022, to be fully vaccinated.
The U.S. Army says soldiers who do not comply and are not exempted could face "suspension and relief."
Copyright 2021 WDRB Media. All Rights Reserved.