Marine Corps Reserve recalls Marines discharged for not receiving COVID-19 vaccine

Multiple Marines from 2nd Battalion, 23rd Marines (2/23) and 2nd Battalion, 25th Marines (2/25), Marine Corps Reserve Infantry Battalions, were recently notified by their chains of command (CoC) and told to return to drill after being separated from service almost a year ago for not taking the COVID-19 vaccine. The unit discharged numerous Marines in February of 2022. In January of 2023, they were notified to return to duty, despite having turned in all of their gear and having moved on with their lives.

Email from the chain of command to the Marines notifying them of their discharge
Email from the CoC notifying the Marines they were set to be discharged

According to an email sent in January 2022, the Marines were denied their religious exemptions and told they had until January 14th to submit their appeal. If they didn’t submit and were still refusing to get the vaccine, their CoC stated they were to “bring in all your issued gear during January’s drill weekend and we will start the administrative separation process.”

Fast forward to late 2022 and early 2023, and the Marines received individual messages from their CoC telling them to report back to the unit. One of the messages from the Company Commander, dated November 30, 2022, told the Marine that his discharge package got dropped from the system and was still being processed and that he would be marked UA (unauthorized absence) if he didn’t return.

Text message from Company Commander of Weapons Company
Text message from Company Commander of Weapons Company

According to the Instagram page notinregz, twelve Marines were told they had been discharged only to be recalled a year later. (I’ve only spoken to four Marines.) They were all threatened with being marked UA if they didn’t return. Shortly after notinregz posted the screenshots, Marines in the unit received a message from their leadership disputing the claims.

Gents, just pass to your guys these two things:

  1. No one who was actually separated is being recalled. The confusion is likely that some Marines, primarily in SLC, were notified that the ADSEP process had been begun against them for vaccine refusal, but was never processed prior to the policy change. Most of those Marines have returned and worked out arrangements with us to finish their obligations.

Leadership’s claims about the Marines being notified the ADSEP process had begun, yet had never processed, is absolutely correct as you can see from the various screenshots. However, this was a failure on the part of the Marine Corps. In fact, these Marines were forced to turn in all of their issued items and equipment when they were “discharged.” One of the Marines I spoke to told me, “every article of uniform was taken to include dress blues and boots. Now we’re told to resume drilling as if nothing happened. All of our personal stuff was taken and lost to the winds and we were told we have to buy stuff again on our own dime.”

Another Marine told me “we were instructed to come to the HTC to turn in our uniforms. They gave us a list of uniform items and gear (separate from CIF) that was, I believe, verbatim the boot camp issue list that was deducted from our paychecks. All uniforms, laundry and sea bags, glow belts, tie clasp, EGA’s, socks and underwear, skivvies, etc… If you didn’t turn in anything, you were billed for it. Some were billed upwards of $1000. I personally was billed for $650. I went to the admin office afterwards where I signed paperwork pertaining to the discharge for refusing the vaccine as well as the sheet stating I owed $650. I was not given copies of these documents. I was told that I would be receiving a general under honorable discharge. I was also told that the Bn PersOff was the one who decided to have our uniforms confiscated, something that they don’t even do for UA’s that get CLA’d and an OTH discharge.”

There seems to be confusion as to what’s happening, even among battalion leadership. The Company Gunnery Sergeant for one of the Marines told him, “Our new CO and the BN SgtMaj are unaware of anyone that is supposed to be coming into the HTC for Marines who refused the vaccine.” The Marine then called the S1 multiple times until two weeks before drill with no success. He then called the duty phone before drill which was supposed to have been March 25. The duty took his name and number and said the S1 would call him. He received no call, no drill schedule or paperwork, and not even a time to show up. 

One of the Marines told me he was told he did not have to make up the drills that were missed during the time he was gone (March 2022-December 2022), and his mandatory drill stop date would stay the same. He was told he would face consequences if he didn’t report. He reported to drill in January of this year. In February he was told he may have to make up the drill dates he missed and would have to deploy on the next unit deployment.

These aren’t isolated events. I wrote about a National Guard Soldier in February who was called back to duty after he had already turned in all his gear and been discharged. I’ve received dozens of anecdotal stories from servicemembers across elements of the Reserve and National Guard detailing similar incidents. The Marines in this case were forced out after being told they were insurrectionists by their CoC for not receiving the vaccine and for questioning the legality of the order. The DOD should not be able to absorb the dwindling numbers within their ranks by recalling personnel they previously discharged because “their paperwork never went through.” They upended the lives of thousands of personnel to get to this point, and now they’re upending those same individual’s lives to try and recover from the damage they’ve inflicted to our national security.

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