Image Credit: Instagram @GuardFreedomTN
The Tennessee Conservative [By Paula Gomes] –
A recent forum for candidates running for Tennessee’s fifth congressional district was hosted by the Wilson County Republican Party and Wilson County Conservative Republicans and moderated by The Tennessee Star Report’s Michael Patrick Leahy.
This is the second in a series of four articles covering the questions and responses of the Republican congressional candidates running for the newly redrawn district. Read the first article here.
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Second Question: Sources tell us that about 10% of the Tennessee National Guard are about to be dismissed because they refuse to take the COVID-19 vaccine. Some of them have asked Governor Lee to intervene and stop those firings. What advice would you give to Governor Lee and what might you do in Congress on this issue?
Geni Batchelor: My advice to Governor Lee would be to use his authority to step in on behalf of those citizens who choose not to be vaccinated. And aside from the fact that he has the authority to do that, it just makes no common sense to me. I’m a common sense person. And when I look at things like taking people who are giving of themselves, and giving of their time to support us, and to protect us, and because they choose not to be vaccinated by a vaccination that is questionable under the best of circumstances – and I’ve been vaccinated, so I’m not a non-vaxxer – but you have the right to not be vaccinated. And so, to take those people out of those situations where they’re there to support us, and to protect our safety, and remove them like they’ve done with police departments and such… is ludicrous. It just makes no sense.
Stewart Parks: So, I’m unvaccinated. I’ve been put on company specific no-fly lists for not wearing a mask, so I have a proven history of not complying with these communist covid policies. So my advice to Governor Lee is to stop the covid policies. The vaccines don’t work; they’re a placebo with negative side effects. We’re seeing young, healthy looking people my age get myocarditis – and I’m not spreading any rumors – but you look at, again just look, I’m not saying anything happened, but you look at Justin Bieber, you know, his face is paralyzed, his wife had a stroke and she’s younger than I am, so, I just want to ask some questions – why are young people my age, you know, having all these horrible side effects at such a young age… and so my advice is to end the covid policies, to stop the vaccine distribution – and I’ve said this at an earlier debate – I do not want any government federal funds going towards vaccine distribution. I want to stop the mandates, stop the lockdowns, stop the vaccine distribution.
Timothy Lee: First of all, he is in charge of the guard, the Tennessee Guard, so I would tell him – don’t allow this to happen. Simple as that. Second of all, I’d like to ask the Brigadier General [Kurt Winstead] that question, excuse me, he’s not here, so we don’t know how he would respond. So it’s very simple, as a Congress member you have to stand up for citizens’ rights, whether you believe in it or don’t, it’s still in our constitution. And to take a playbook from the Democrats – it’s my body, why can’t I make that choice?
Jeff Beierlein: First and foremost, I’d say I need him to be the governor we elected him to be. I’m the only one on stage that’s worn the uniform of a national guardsman, of an active duty service member – and a lot of us wear different uniforms as leaders – and also as a healthcare executive. I’ve taken the vaccine. I’ve been part of the mandate. And I was part of the biggest drivers on that, separating myself from my career in healthcare to step up and run for congress. That said, I don’t believe forcing people to take a shot against their will should compromise both our state’s integrity and security and that at the federal level. Who’s going to protect us at the border? It’s the guardsmen. Who’s going to come after a flood or tornado? It’s the guardsmen, it’s us. And we should not be putting our state’s security at risk for a shot. We watch mayors and governors defy the federal government all the time at the border with drugs, with sanctuary cities, and Lee needs to stand up. And I’d invite all of you to write him and call him about this issue. It’s too important.
Andy Ogles: Well for many this is a new issue and you’re seeing press releases being sent out. During covid, I refused to comply in Maury County. In working with Tennessee Stands, I launched the Freedom Matters Tour and what I found is that courage is contagious. And I traveled the state encouraging other mayors not to comply. I held a press conference and sent a letter to the governor asking him to protect our healthcare workers. I declared a state of emergency in Maury County protecting our healthcare workers, but I also sent a letter to Governor Lee asking him to protect our national guardsmen. And I did that over a year and a half ago and I was the only person that stood up in this state for our military on this issue, before [it was] convenient to issue a press release.
Beth Harwell: I would say to Governor Lee that these are essential services and they should be exempt. We need our national guard and the protection they give our state, and the protection they give our nation, and I am opposed to a mandate of any form when it comes to vaccination.
Tres Wittum: Just recently we had the covid special session, and being in Senate Finance Ways and Means, we had lots of conversations with public/private partnerships and other entities that came in and decided what we were going to do. I would remind the governor, because it’s his decision to make, that these are Tennesseans, and these are their jobs and, quite frankly, these are not vaccinations. We’ve got to remember this – it’s very important – they’re inoculations, and they’re subjective ideas, but they’re not vaccines. So we can’t even give even an inch on that. They’re not vaccines, maybe one finally [is] but remember they were approved under emergency orders… We’re giving our money to companies that are going to force this on people… or you’re going to lose your job. Tell them to kick bricks. See ya.
Natisha Brooks: My advice to Governor Lee would be to point [out] to the Tennessee public which amendment in both the Tennessee constitution and national constitution gives him the authority to dismiss either civilian or military workers on behalf of a vaccine. We must continue to support the HIPPA laws which give privacy on patients medical rights. remember, the American public should have been told to consult their doctors first before taking the vaccines. Waiting on the class action lawsuits against Tennessee and the government.
The state has since asked the Department of Defense (DOD) to approve exemptions to the vaccine mandate. In a statement that FOX 17 News received, the governor’s office said no guardsmen would be discharged while they wait for a response.
On Wednesday Governor Lee’s office stated, “We take seriously the religious and personal exemptions requested by members who are not part of the 93% who are vaccinated in accordance with the DOD policy. We have no plans to terminate these members based on their status and have asked DOD to approve their individual exemption requests. No one will be discharged tomorrow.”
Captain Mickey Shelton says the number of unvaccinated guardsmen is higher than Lee’s office states. Shelton says the number is closer to 10%.
“Which is 400+ service members, and that doesn’t include religious or medical exemptions, so you’re looking at close to 800 or 1,000 members here in our own state,” said Shelton.
Shelton believes losing that number of guardsmen would leave Tennessee in a precarious state.
“We respond to natural disasters, floods, tornadoes, sometimes COVID pandemic, sometimes riots, so it’s so important that we don’t deplete our force,” he said.
U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) is introducing new legislation to prohibit federal funds from being utilized to implement any requirement that a member of the National Guard receive a vaccination against COVID-19.
40,000 U.S. Army National Guard members nationwide are at risk of losing their jobs for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine unless President Biden reverses course.
“Our servicemembers are the bedrock of America,” said Senator Blackburn. “Firing 40,000 Guardsmen for refusing the COVID vaccine would be both a complete disgrace and a threat to our national security.”
About the Author: Paula Gomes is a Tennessee resident and reporter for The Tennessee Conservative. You can reach Paula at email@example.com.