Biden Praises ‘Heroic Work’ of Coast Guard Swimmer Facing Discharge Over Vaccine Mandate

Lorenz Duchamps
By Lorenz Duchamps
October 2, 2022US News
Biden Praises ‘Heroic Work’ of Coast Guard Swimmer Facing Discharge Over Vaccine Mandate
Crew members in a U.S. Coast Guard MH 65 Dolphin helicopter participate in a training exercise in Miami Beach, Fla., on June 09, 2022. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

President Joe Biden on Friday publicly hailed the heroic work of a U.S. Coast Guard member who saved lives through Hurricane Ian, though the service member isn’t satisfied with the congratulations because he’s facing discharge over Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

The White House issued the call in a press release on Sept. 30, when the president personally thanked Zach Loesch—a Coast Guard Aviation Survival Technician (AST) Second Class—for saving Floridians impacted by the major storm system.

“I told him how proud of him I was and thanked him for all the work he and his Coasties are doing to save lives,” Biden said of the call with Loesch.

“I’m grateful for the brave women and men—federal, state, and local folks working so hard. They’re all working as one team,” the president added. “I hear that from the governor as well as from the federal folks.”

Unfortunately, the experienced Coast Guard member who risked his own life to save Floridians is facing discharge from the maritime search and rescue agency because he won’t comply with Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, Loesch told Breitbart News on Oct. 1 after his conversation with the president.

Loesch told the publication that he had filed a religious accommodation request to the vaccine mandate, as well as an appeal, but both were denied. Religious exceptions are typically made regarding the use of fetal tissue in the vaccine.

“If I had asked any of the people I saved yesterday if they wanted to come with me even though I am unvaccinated, every single one of them would have said ‘yes,'” Loesch said.

“It just sucks that he thanked me yet the vaccine mandate is what’s kicking me out,” he added. “I just love my job and I’m really good at it. It sucks. I feel like this is the job that I was born to do.”

Loesch personally retrieved a disabled woman and her husband who were trapped in their back bedroom with a couch jammed in the doorway. He kicked through a wall to free them.

“I’m just trying to smile and be happy and show up to them as a light at the end of their dark day,” Loesch told local agency WFLA. “A lot of them are desperate and need help and in despair. Everything they know is gone, and when they’re leaving with us it may be the last time they see their house.”

NTD News contacted the White House for comment.

During Friday’s call, Biden also spoke to Lt. Commander Christopher Hooper, who is leading the search and rescue operation in Florida.

Biden said he wished to express his gratitude to everyone at the Coast Guard for the work they’ve done during operations in response to Ian—the powerful Category 4 system that made landfall on Florida’s west coast on Sept. 28 with winds in excess of 150 mph. The major storm has left at least 47 people dead in the state.

“The president thanked them for saving lives and asked for a report on the work that continues to save Floridians,” according to a readout of the call. “He also asked if they needed additional support to accelerate successful saves; they indicated that they have been given what they need to carry out their vital mission.”

NTD Photo
U.S. Coast Guard personnel evacuate a man and his dog in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian in Matlacha, Fla., on Oct. 1, 2022. (Ricardo Arduengo/AFP via Getty Images)
NTD Photo
A U.S. Coast Guard hoovering Hurricane Bay in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian in Fort Myers Beach, Fla., on Sept. 30, 2022. (Ricardo Arduengo/AFP via Getty Images)

Facing Recruiting Challenges

Like other branches of the nation’s military, the Coast Guard is facing recruiting challenges. In spite of this, the branch is letting go of experienced service members without due process over the COVID-19 vaccine mandate, holding little regard for sincerely held religious beliefs, Lt. Col. R. Davis Younts, civilian attorney and Air Force Reserve Judge Advocate General, told The Epoch Times.

The attorney explained that “service members of other branches [of the military] are granted an administrative separation board, if they have six years of service.” Cases are presented to three senior officers with an attorney present, he said.

“However, the Coast Guard is using the provision of the Coast Guard instructions that allows them to circumvent that process and kick people out without a board even if they have 18 or 19 years in,” Younts said.

Despite a workforce shortage, the Coast Guard is continuing to process members for discharge for refusing to take the vaccine, said former Aviation Survival Technician Chief Petty Officer David Kroll, who decided to retire in April 2021 after more than 20 years as a helicopter rescue swimmer over his religious objection to the vaccine.

“These are highly qualified, trained personnel, including pilots, flight mechanics, rescue swimmers, surf men, cutter men, and vital support personnel,” Kroll said.

A Coast Guard media relations official told The Epoch Times that as of Sept. 21, the Coast Guard has approved 12 religious accommodations, and denied 1,231 requests.

Epoch Times reporter J.M. Phelps contributed to this report.

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