Marine Cpl. Whitney McHaffie refused to wear a mask and refuses to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
She was discharged from the military a month after the Defense Department’s mask mandate for unvaccinated troops went into effect, possibly making her the first service member to be forced out of the service for violating COVID-related rules.
McHaffie, who served at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in North Carolina, went viral on social media after appearing in a video with Josh Mandel, a former Ohio state treasurer running for the Senate for the second time. The video, in which she tells her story of being kicked out of the Corps for refusing to wear a mask, had over 400,000 views as of Tuesday morning.
Vaccinations are now required for troops, but they were not at the time of McHaffie’s discharge. Despite this, the amateur MMA fighter and fifth-grade teacher from Ohio requested a religious exemption for the COVID-19 vaccine, which had not been granted by the time she was discharged.
COVID-19 has killed over 600,000 Americans, with another 100,000 expected to die by the end of the year. The rapid spread of the more contagious Delta variant has been attributed primarily to areas of the United States with low vaccination rates. Masks have been shown in multiple studies to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to recommend their use in areas with a high number of COVID-19 cases.
The Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that wearing a cloth mask can reduce droplet transmission from infected wearers into the air by 50% to 70%. Masks were also shown to help keep uninfected wearers from inhaling large droplets.
McHaffie believes she was singled out and that officers sought to humiliate her. She estimates that only about half of the Marines in her unit were vaccinated, and the majority did not comply with the mask requirement.
According to a Marine Corps spokesperson, the policies regarding masks and vaccinations apply to all Marines, and “failure to adhere [to] policies, orders, and regulations may result in corrective, disciplinary, or administrative action, when appropriate.”
McHaffie also expressed concern about the use of fetal tissue in COVID-19 vaccine research. While researchers did use cell lines derived from elective abortion tissue created decades ago, the tissue was used to produce proteins rather than being directly incorporated into the vaccine.
None of the COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the United States are made from aborted fetuses’ tissues.
McHaffie stated that she is opposed to any healthcare mandates. When troops join the armed forces, they must adhere to a slew of Defense Department health standards, including mandates for other vaccines. Aside from COVID-19 shots, troops are required to receive a slew of vaccines against diseases such as smallpox and influenza.
McHaffie went on to say that a senior member of her chain of command even called her mother and asked her to persuade her daughter to follow the rules. According to documents reviewed by Military.com, the next day, July 23, her chain of command issued a formal warning to McHaffie that she would be discharged.
Her commander claimed she disobeyed two superior officers “willfully” by “refusing to wear a face covering despite not meeting the requirement to be exempt.”
When reached by text and phone, the officers who acted to remove her from the Marine Corps did not respond to multiple requests for comment from Military.com.
According to a copy of her DD-214, which summarizes a service member’s time in the military, McHaffie received a general discharge under honorable conditions less than a week later, on July 29. It was a lightning-fast dismissal; even for serious criminal offenses, it is unusual for a service member to be kicked out in less than a week. However, her chain of command acted within the scope of their authority and in accordance with Pentagon directives.