There seems to be fewer and fewer leaders in our military these days who are willing to stand up in the face of adversity and confront unethical and illegal behavior. It’s easy to call out infractions when they consist of the typical assault, theft, underage drinking, etc., but when the unlawful actions are supported and enforced by the most senior leadership in the DOD, what we’re seeing is a willingness to shut up and color from commanders at every echelon.
There have been a number of heroic officers and NCOs who have publicly spoken out and put their careers on the line in the face of the COVID vaccine mandate, however. Bradley Miller, a former Army Lieutenant Colonel, is one of those individuals.
Miller took command of a battalion in the 101st Airborne Division in June of 2021. Prior to taking command, Miller graduated the School of Advanced Military Studies (SAMS), a highly selective graduate-level education program taught at the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth. Miller was in the program when the COVID vaccine was brand new and had just been approved as an Emergency Use Authorized (EUA) vaccine for the general public. He had no intention of taking the vaccine, which at the time was voluntary for servicemembers in accordance with the law, and he made this fact known to his Brigade Commander as he entered into his new job. His commander was respectful and told him it was voluntary, so he wouldn’t press the issue. However, it’s important to note that the military has a culture of being a team player, and this ESPECIALLY applies to officers. Miller knew that not getting the shot was a likely death knell for his career since it was just a matter of time before it became mandatory and he was ordered to take it.
Miller was a hard refusal; this means that when the vaccine became mandatory, he didn’t seek an exception to the policy through administrative means. While tens of thousands of servicemembers have sought exceptions for medical or religious reasons, with many seeking Religious Accommodations (and receiving rubber stamped denials), Miller purposefully chose not to seek an exception to the policy because he felt like it was wrong to have an individual exemption while the hundreds of soldiers in his command did not.
When Miller counseled his Command Sergeant Major, Field Grade Officers, and Company Commanders, he included a portion on moral character which stated, “Rak Solid leaders are able to identify dilemmas and make ethically sound decisions. They are always focused on doing right by our mission, our Soldiers, and our Families. I am impressed by leaders who always showcase their integrity and unyielding character, consequences be damned. Train your subordinates on the importance of acting ethically and integrate it into your tactical scenarios, counselings, and philosophies. Where appropriate, use UCMJ actions to reinforce the importance of ethical conduct and professionalism. Acting with integrity is more than just a CYA activity. I will never ask you to do something that I feel is immoral, unethical, illegal, or unconstitutional. If you ever believe that I do, approach me for additional clarity or to correct me (in the event that I’m wrong). I expect your subordinates to expect the same standard of you. American citizens have entrusted us to exercise violence on their behalf; we damn well better do so ethically. Nothing less should be expected.”
On August 24, 2021, the Secretary of Defense issued an order mandating the vaccine to all servicemembers. Miller still refused to receive the shot, and he was eventually given a GOMOR (General Officer Letter of Reprimand) for it. In his written rebuttal, Miller wrote, “I believe the vaccines are both unnecessary and dangerous. I believe they represent far more of a risk to individual and collective readiness than the COVID-19 virus against which they ostensibly guard. Therefore, I believe the more responsible decision that I could make for the health of myself and those around me is to refuse to take the vaccines. I have never refused a vaccine required by the Army before, and have received many vaccines over the years…”
Miller was eventually relieved of command for his refusal. He was in command for just over four months from June 2021 to October of 2021. He stated that he was “unyielding in [his] resolve” and that he “firmly believe[s] that refusing the vaccine is the right choice [that aligns] with truth and rectitude.”
LTC Miller was assigned to the 101st Division Staff where he worked in the G5 after he was relieved of command. He submitted his resignation on March 2, 2022. In total, Miller served for nineteen years and three months, which is only nine months short from being able to retire from the military and receive a pension for life. Miller’s steadfast conviction to what he believed was not only a danger to him, but the force at large, led him to resign from what he had dedicated his entire professional life towards.
In his resignation letter he stated, “in my view, continued service would equate to an unspoken endorsement of what I consider to be an act of medical fraud and misconduct perpetrated on military service members. Understanding that the values of senior leaders within the Department of Defense do not align with my own, I consider the best course of action at this time to be resignation.”
If more leaders acted with the impetus and conviction that LTC Brad Miller did, then maybe we wouldn’t have the medical calamity our DOD is currently experiencing or the exodus of highly trained and qualified servicemembers currently taking place.