The Forgotten; military personnel cut off from their families and forgotten about while overseas

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An Army First Lieutenant has been stuck in South Korea for over twenty months now for what was supposed to be a year long restricted (no family) tour, and he’s not alone. The Army has not allowed many soldiers to PCS who are currently stationed overseas and refused the EUA COVID-19 vaccine, and it’s taking a toll on not only the soldiers but their families back in the states as well.

1LT J was assigned to Korea on a one year unaccompanied tour and was scheduled to PCS (Permanent Change of Station) on December 16, 2021. Three weeks before he was set to PCS, he was informed of FRAGO 10 which stated that servicemembers overseas with a pending exemption would not be allowed to PCS without an exception to policy from the Undersecretary of the Army. His ETP was sent up the following month, yet nine months later he’s still heard nothing.

J has a wife and two small children back home; a five year old son and a fifteen month old daughter. He’s missed every moment of his daughter’s life so far to include her crawling, walking and even her first birthday. His daughter barely knows who he is.

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J told me his wife’s mental health is deteriorating. Despite telling his command that his wife is struggling and telling them that she has mentioned harming herself from all of the stress this has caused, they claim their hands are tied, and there’s nothing they can do.

The irony in all of this is that while J is being told he’s a “risk to the force” due to his unvaccinated status, he’s still working as a Tactical Control Officer, or TCO. As a TCO, he works with THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense), the only upper-tier missile defense weapon system in the KTO (Korean Theater of Operations). They’re the main effort in a real world mission, operating as part of a combined task force alongside their South Korean counterparts. He routinely flies on a CH-47 full of other soldiers while working and living in extremely close quarters with them.

In fact, J has been at a strategic tacsite for months. He shakes hands with General Officers on a regular basis. Just this past month he received coins from the USFK, USARPAC and ROKAF Commanding Generals, as well as the Korean Minister of Defense.

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J has also been allowed to take leave to the exact place he’s not allowed to PCS to to see his family, but this has only been for weeks at a time. Despite being such a danger to society that’s he’s been held for close to a year past his reassignment date and not been allowed to move back to the states, he can still hop on a plane as long as it’s not a permanent move. J told me he feels lucky though because he’s spoken to several soldiers who have had their leave denied for being “unvaccinated.”

J is not alone though. I don’t have an exact number, but I know of at least several dozen other servicemembers and their families who have been cut off from one another now for several years, despite being allowed to see each other on approved leave. Many believe it’s due to old, outdated policies that haven’t caught up with existing CDC guidance, while others believe it’s because the DOD and its branches have created so much confusion with conflicting guidance that commanders are stumped as to what is permissible or not.

Someone asked me, “Are you tracking the recent DoD guidance that PCS moves are mission essential and that the Army is still not allowing Soldiers to PCS, 6 weeks after the DoD guidance? I know some in Congress and others are putting pressure on various things, but I’m wondering if people have forgotten those of us still stuck overseas past our DEROS, or whether people are even aware that this is still the case.”

The thing is, J did reach out to his representative, Congressman Roger Williams of the 25th District of Texas, and after a Congressional Inquiry was told “there’s nothing we can do.”

Just before J was supposed to PCS last December, he and his wife bought a house in Texas (because he had orders to Fort Hood) and uprooted them away from their family. At twenty months, J has been away from his family longer than even the longest deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan during the Global War on Terror.

The “forgotten” servicemembers in our DOD have been cast aside and ignored by their leadership and representatives. It’s impossible to look at the actions of the Army and DOD, in light of what we now know, and think that restrictions are anything other than punitive and vindictive. This isn’t about mission readiness or force health. Many of these families have suffered irreparable damage. The religious discrimination and psychological weight crushing down on these families who are torn apart is draconian and antithetical to all we’re supposed to stand for. While the Commander in Chief goes on TV to tell the world the pandemic is over, the DOD is continuing to tighten the screws on those who raised their right hand to serve their country for no other reason than the simple fact that they can.

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uniform74
2 months ago

I’m a PFC stationed at Fort Eustis, Virginia and a recent graduate of the 15Y MOS course. I enlisted in May 2021 and came to Fort Eustis for AIT in July 2021. I started a religious exemption packet for the Covid vaccine in September when the mandate first took place. Since then I’ve heard nothing on where my packet is or what my current status is. I graduated AIT in February of this year but because of my unvaccinated status, I have not been allowed to PCS to my next duty station, which was supposed to be Fort Bliss, Texas. For a year and three months I’ve been stuck in AIT after I’ve graduated all because I refused to get the Covid vaccine. I’ve been allowed to take leave three times since I’ve been here, but otherwise I’ve been stationed here doing anything but my MOS that I trained for. And still to this point, I have been given no update on where my packet is at, if I will be able to stay in the Army, or if I will be discharged.

Kara
Reply to  uniform74
2 months ago

Your story is uncannily similar to my boyfriend’s. The last year has really been more of a blur to me. He arrived at Basic in July of 2021, and ended up catching “C” about a month in. He developed myocarditis post-infection. Despite an Army cardiologist recommending a temporary medical exemption, and filing a religious accommodation request, my boyfriend was not allowed to train from August 2021 until April 2022. By some grace of God, the Army finally gave him a sort of ultimatum – they told him flat out he had to get the shot to finish Basic and go to OCS. (They never approved his packet either, btw). He ended up separating, and now he’s in the Army National Guard, was able to commission as a 2LT and was not required to take the jab. I have no idea how he managed to get around this, but he did. I prayed daily and really gave it up to God. I hope your end to this nightmare is right around the corner. Trust me when I say you are not alone in this.

uniform74
Reply to  Kara
2 months ago

I’m glad your boyfriend was able to commission and continue his career. It’s definitely not been easy but it’s always good to be reminded that I’m not alone and there are others standing with me against this.

shanashelby
Reply to  uniform74
1 month ago

check your medpros. many religious exemptions have been approved. They have not nodified me either and mine was approved till 16 August 2023, https://trmlx.com/army-quietly-approves-covid-vaccine-exemptions-after-dodig-memo-goes-public/#comments

dawn-mc
2 months ago

My husband is there with “J” and actually is one of the chinook guys that flys him from place to place. We are going on 18 mos separated by for force and he can take leave on our dime but not allowed to PCS either! I have reached out to congressman and senators with the exact same response!

syl
syl
Reply to  dawn-mc
1 month ago

“J” is my family. Please let me know what we can do.

dawn-mc
2 months ago

Also…DEROS date has changed now 3 times since this corruption has began! It just keeps getting pushed farther out

Kara
2 months ago

I haven’t forgotten these service members. 💔

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