TULSA, Okla. — A National Guardsmen told 2 News he is vaccinated, but he wanted to speak up on behalf of some of his peers who have been placed in what he calls, a tough predicament.
“I’ve got to think of it like big army standpoint, as a leader, you need every troop in the fight, you know, you need your guys, you need your numbers…I mean if a lot of people are getting sick, that could cause an issue, but at the same time it’s every person’s individual decision,” Specialist, Steven Havenar, with the Oklahoma National Guard said.
Steven Havenar is an Oklahoma National Guard member. He's fought for our country, our state, and our freedoms.
Now, he's using his voice to fight on behalf of his fellow guard members who want the freedom of choice when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine.
“It’s frustrating in the fact that, you know, fighting for freedoms, but freedoms for them are getting taken away, but at the same time I kind of understand that it’s a structured military environment and what they say goes,” Havenar said.
Havenar is referring to the Department of Defense Directive requiring all National Guard Members to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. A DOD memo released last month listed clear consequences for service members who failed to comply, including cutting them from drills, promotion opportunities, educational benefits, and even severing their pay. Havenar said the directive puts many of his peers in a tough situation.
“A lot of people depend on the 250 and up they get from each drill to kind of supplement their income, so it’s really tough for those guys,” Havenar said.
Last week, Attorney General O'Connor and Gov. Stitt filed a lawsuit against the DOD and the Biden Administration, claiming the vaccine mandate is unconstitutional and members of the national Guard will quit if forced to comply. Today leaders, including Adjutant General Mancino, standing their ground against the DOD's orders.
“As the governor said under Title 32 USC, he is the Commander and Chief of the Oklahoma Army National Guard and Air National Guard and that means that he cannot necessarily eliminate a Federal requirement but he can decide. How, if and when it is enforced within the state of Oklahoma and that’s exactly what he’s done. He said, within the state of Oklahoma, we will not enforce that mandate,” Brig. Gen. Mancino, Adjutant General for Oklahoma said.
Havenar said the DOD's orders have stirred conversation among his fellow national guard members.
“I know a lot of guys have said if they’re not going to get paid why show up, you know what I mean. I can’t blame at all. Nobody wants to go work for free," Havenar said.
He said the mandate also jeopardizes what many have worked hard for.
“I think guys like that have been in for an extended period of time like 10, 12 years and they’re going for retirement and then this coming along and they’re not going to be able to get to that goal, which they’ve dedicated so much time into that. To me, it’s messed up. They’ve put so much time into something, just to have that ripped away from them,” Havenar said.
A tough call to make, but he's hoping they each chose wisely.
“I’m already vaccinated so it doesn’t affect me to the scale that it will affect other guys and that’s the biggest thing is how is it going to affect other guys, you know, especially like the junior soldiers and guys I have under me that they’re not going to get vaccinated and I’ve already spoke with them about that, but they’re prepared to face those consequences,” Havenar said.
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