A Marine Corps major’s promotion has been indefinitely suspended over his religious objection to the COVID-19 vaccine, according to the officer’s wife.
Maj. Nick Harwood was selected for a promotion to lieutenant colonel in December 2021, a recognition of his outstanding record of military service. It was due to take effect this year, but Harwood’s promotion has been delayed indefinitely and will possibly be rescinded, his wife Meghan Harwood said.
“On Nov, 21, my husband received a non-promote letter,” Meghan told The Epoch Times.
“A non-promote letter should have been presented at the time of infraction—when he enacted his Religious Freedom of Restoration Act rights and abstained from receiving a vaccine that violated his religious beliefs,” she said.
Meghan considers command is at fault for the fact that it was presented at the last minute.
She believes this move was made because of her husband’s refusal to comply with the Pentagon’s vaccine mandate. But this, she believes, is a “blatant defiance” of a preliminary injunction issued by a federal judge.
On Aug. 18, U.S. District Court Judge Steven Merryday issued a classwide preliminary injunction barring the Marines from discharging or retaliating against service members seeking religious accommodations to the vaccine mandate. This halted all separation proceedings, including the one against Harwood, as previously reported by The Epoch Times.
But this ruling has not stopped the Marines from stripping Harwood of his career advancement opportunities, according to Meghan.
“This further demonstrates the Marine Corps’ vindictive actions and determination to do anything in their power to shame, degrade, and discriminate against those who chose to stand for their religious beliefs,” she said.
Attorney R. Davis Younts, a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force Reserve and former active duty JAG, agreed and is appalled that “the military continues to punish and put pressure on all of everyone while the injunction is in place.”
In Harwood’s case, “We have military officer who was competitively selected for promotion and is otherwise qualified for promotion, and the only thing holding that promotion back is a denied religious accommodation,” Younts told The Epoch Times.
“As a Christian, [Harwood] is being denied a promotion he earned by a process that the Inspector General has already found to be improper and the courts are already skeptical of.”
A June memo by Acting Inspector General Sean W. O’Donnell found that the Department of Defense had been in “potential noncompliance” with the review of religious accommodation requests of service members.
Still Fighting to Preserve Freedom
Younts said what happened to Harwood is not an isolated incident.
“Other military members taking a stand for their faith and constitutional rights are being denied leadership positions and being held hostage, unable to transfer or move to a new duty location,” he said.
As the discrimination continues, he said, military readiness is “weakened by the loss of real leaders and the devastating impact on morale.”
“Even those [service members] who did not file a religious accommodation are losing faith in a senior leadership that is playing politics with the lives and careers of military members,” he added.
According to Meghan, the circumstances surrounding her husband’s plight are a direct contradiction of the narrative the Marine Corps keeps pushing today—and a recent event has solidified her views.
On Nov. 9, she and her husband attended their first Marine Logistic Group’s (MLG) Marine Corps Birthday Ball—the group’s first ball since the start of the pandemic. “As I listened to the commandant’s USMC birthday message,” she said, “I had a completely different, contrary perspective given how my husband has been treated.”
He attempted to give a stirring message about “our freedom tomorrow” and “the battlefields of tomorrow,” she said. “But all I could see is the war being waged on our own Marines.”
“We have men and women who fight to preserve the freedoms of all Americans and yet there are service members who are being punished for attempting to exercise these very same freedoms within the military,” she said.
“These are the men and women who exemplify honor, courage, and commitment,” she added, referring to the Marines’ core values.
“They are the ones willing to take a stand no matter the cost, and these are the type of leaders we need in our military.”
Younts emphasized that his views do not reflect those of the Department of Defense or the Department of the Air Force. The Pentagon did not return an inquiry from The Epoch Times about Harwood’s case.