BL Fisher Note:
Young American citizens, who enlist in the US Armed Forces, are being treated
like common criminals when they exercise the human right to informed consent to
a medical procedure that could injure or kill them. These young soldiers, many
of them performing with distinction and more than ready to give their lives for
their country on the battlefield, are being punished for defending their lives
off the battlefield in the face of mounting evidence that the anthrax vaccine is
neither safe nor effective in the event of a bioterrorism attack. This kind of
bad behavior on the part of the doctors and officers running the US Military
will not result in increased compliance with unjust orders but will only cause
more fine young Americans to turn away from the recruiting tables and decide not
to make the military a career.
decision to refuse the anthrax inoculation leads to a demotion and a 60-day
sentence. By Mark Arax Times Staff Writer
July 21, 2003
His ship came home six weeks ago from the Persian Gulf, but Troy Goodwin could
only watch as 200 of his fellow sailors were given a heros welcome at this
naval air base in the heart of California cotton country.
He had waited
eight months to see his family, but no sooner had he landed than he was carted
off to a cinder-block barracks that serves as a brig. For the next 40 days, the
airplane mechanic with the once-spotless record served his sentence, filling
sandbags and pulling weeds under the 105-degree sun.
He hadnt abused
drugs or stolen property or gone AWOL. Instead, the Navy was punishing him for
refusing to submit to an anthrax vaccination that he believed could damage his
health and prevent him and his wife from conceiving a healthy baby.
Last week, the
32-year-old Goodwin completed his time, took off the blue badge of shame that
had been affixed to his uniform, and returned to his family and squadron a
After six years of
proud service, he had been demoted and his pay had been docked. He now finds
himself nagged by a thought that would have seemed inconceivable just a year
ago: Maybe he made a mistake in believing that the military could be a career.
experience has left me feeling very degraded, Goodwin said. I guess you could
say I was a model soldier. Everything the military asked me to do, I did. But I
wasnt going to subject my body to a vaccine thats not proven to work and could
have serious side effects.
Yes, I took an
oath to obey orders, but I dont feel this order was a lawful one, he said. I
didnt sign up to blindly trust the military with my health.
His superiors say
Goodwin gave them little choice but to punish him.
As far as the
Navy is concerned, this is a pretty simple, straightforward matter, said Dennis
McGrath, public affairs officer at the Lemoore base. If youre going into a
combat zone where anthrax may be used, you need to take the appropriate
inoculations to preserve not only your health but the health of your fellow
He disobeyed a
lawful order, but because hes a good worker, they decided not to court-martial
him, McGrath said. Under the circumstances, he got the least amount of
punishment a sailor could get.
Nearly 1 million
military personnel have received the anthrax vaccine since the 1991 Persian Gulf
War, including more than 300,000 during the last year, according to military
figures. Despite questions about the vaccines efficacy and possible health
risks ranging from sterility to cardiac arrest to immune disorders, fewer than
600 soldiers have refused it. Depending on their prior records, they have been
court-martialed or given a nonjudicial punishment similar to Goodwins.
Critics say the
Pentagon has exploited Americas fear of terrorists and the threat posed by
Saddam Hussein to push a vaccine that has sickened hundreds of soldiers and led
to a handful of deaths. Citing health risks, one lawsuit filed in federal court
in Washington seeks to force the government to acknowledge the vaccines
The military well
knows how many deaths and illnesses this experimental vaccine has caused, and
yet they continue to insist otherwise, said John Richardson, a former F-16
pilot and policy analyst for the Joint Chiefs of Staff who stands at the
forefront of the opposition.
They cant find
weapons of mass destruction, and yet they are throwing people in jail who refuse
to take a vaccine that they claim protects against weapons of mass destruction,
The Pentagon says
critics overlook the fact that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved
The idea that
were pushing something dangerous and experimental onto our soldiers is
nonsense, absolute nonsense, said James Turner, a Pentagon spokesman. The FDA
has certified the safety and efficacy of this vaccine. There have been no
deaths, and the side effects are not unlike other similar vaccines.
FDA-approved product literature acknowledges the deaths of five military
personnel who became sick after taking the vaccine. And in a memo in 1998, the
secretary of the Army conceded that the vaccine was unusually hazardous.
Only three months
ago, Rachael Lacy, a 22-year-old Army reservist at Ft. McCoy in Wisconsin, died
of an infection after receiving inoculations against anthrax and smallpox.
the shots in December, Goodwin said, he spent six months studying the vaccines
pros and cons. He and his wife, Andrea, who had two children from a previous
marriage, decided to have a baby. Among the vaccines long list of possible
adverse effects are birth defects.
No one can say
for sure whether this vaccine even protects against anthrax, said Goodwin, a
native of Alabama whose FA-18 Hornet squadron had been assigned to the aircraft
carrier Constellation. But what they do know is that it can make some people
very sick. I felt like it was senseless, especially since we were going to try
to have a baby.
If Goodwin began
to waver under pressure from the ships command, his wife held firm back home.
At one point, it
became a battle of wills between me and them, for my husbands conscience, she
said. They made his life miserable and treated him like a common criminal.
Goodwin wrote a
letter to his superiors explaining his reasons for refusing the vaccine. He
stressed that his stance wasnt a ploy to avoid serving in the war; he believed
in his heart that the vaccines health risks outweighed its benefits.
The Navy began
meting out its punishment almost immediately. In February, Goodwin was denied
liberty during a port call. He was no longer allowed to work on the Hornets
mechanical systems, a job that had earned him commendations. He was relegated to
sanding and painting the frames.
counting those actions as part of Goodwins 60-day sentence, the Navy waited
until May to start the clock on his official punishment. The delay meant that
Goodwin wouldnt be allowed to return to his family when he arrived home June 2.
docked in San Diego, and the squadron was flown back to Lemoore. As soon as the
transport plane pulled into the hangar that day, a senior chief petty officer
met Goodwin. His wife had barely given him a hug and a kiss when he was led away
to serve his time.
The brig, an
open-roomed barracks with side-by-side bunks, was only a 10-minute walk from
their house on the base, but it might as well have been a thousand miles.
quarters with 15 other sailors who had earned the Navys wrath for violations
that had nothing to do with vaccines.
It was like boot
camp all over again. His cigarettes were counted no more than five a day. And
he couldnt touch or talk to his wife at church. Family visits were restricted
to two hours each evening. His days were filled with menial labor. He couldnt
go anywhere without the blue badge hanging from his left pocket.
branded, he said. I felt like all the hard work I had done for my squadron was
for nothing. They had completely turned their back on me.
The Navy demoted
him one rank and cut his paycheck in half for two months. Andrea struggled at
home to make ends meet. She thought it was beneath her husband and the other men
to spend their mornings pulling weeds in the blistering heat. She marched right
up to his superior officer and told him just how she felt. The next day, the
weed detail ended.
When this whole
thing started, my husband wasnt jumping up and trying to start a mutiny or
anything, she said. It was just a personal decision, and they could have let
it ride. But no. They decided to make an example out of him.
Last week, much to
her surprise, Troy was let go two days early and walked through the front door
with a big smile on his face. Five days back and hes still trying to find his
home legs. He now wonders about signing up for a new tour of duty when this one
ends in April 2005.
They got me
working below my skill level, doing things I did two or three years ago, he
said. Unless something changes, Im going to think long and hard about
News@nvic.org is a
free service of the National Vaccine Information Center and is supported through
membership donations. Learn more about vaccines, diseases and how to protect
All information, data, and material contained, presented, or provided here
is for general information purposes only and is not to be construed as
reflecting the knowledge or opinions of the publisher, and is not to be
construed or intended as providing medical or legal advice. The decision
whether or not to vaccinate is an important and complex issue and should
be made by you, and you alone, in consultation with your health care
DISCLAIMER: All information, data, and material contained, presented, or provided here is for general information purposes only and is not to be construed as reflecting the knowledge or opinions of the publisher, and is not to be construed or intended as providing medical or legal advice. The decision whether or not to vaccinate is an important and complex issue and should be made by you, and you alone, in consultation with your health care provider.
Copyright 2013 by Vaccination News, A Non-Profit Corporation. All Rights Reserved. This content may not be copied unless permission in writing from Sandy Gottstein has been obtained.
"A foolish faith in authority is the worst enemy of truth."
-- Albert Einstein, letter to a friend, 1901
"I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves, and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education."
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to William C. Jarvis, September 28, 1820
"What's the point of vaccination if it doesn't protect you from the unvaccinated?"
-- Sandy Gottstein
"Who gets to decide what the greater good is and how many will be sacrificed to it?"