Lance Corporal Catherine Arnett is on the brink of court martial for decisions made in opposition to what she considers an “unlawful order” to take a COVID-19 vaccination shot.
Immediately following the secretary of defense’s order to vaccinate against COVID-19 on Aug. 24, 2021, Arnett sought religious exemption—which was denied the following month. Having submitted her appeal against the decision in November, it was denied in January 2022. This began an administrative separation process from the Marine Corps, prompting Arnett to declare she “cannot consent to it.”
The 24-year-old Lance Corporal held firm in her beliefs, telling The Epoch Times that “if your mandate is illegal, then your separation orders are illegal.” In April 2022, Arnett received a letter from her command, giving her 30 days to leave Japan and report to California’s Camp Pendleton to be processed for separation. The Marine Corps does not separate individuals from duty stations overseas or outside the continental United States.
Thus, Arnett continues to refuse to board a plane, explaining that “[the order] to get on the plane [is] inextricably linked to the vaccine mandate.” If the “unlawful order” of the vaccine mandate were not in place, she would have chosen to serve longer, aspiring to become a drill instructor. Instead, her decision to seek religious accommodation and subsequent refusal to leave Japan for separation from the Marine Corps has had consequences that may lead to a court martial.
Arnett was charged under Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice for disobeying a direct order. She was also charged under Article 87 for deliberately failing to board an aircraft to the United States.
Because Arnett has less than six years of service, under military regulations, the Marine Corps does not have to give her an administrative separation board to decide whether to retain or separate her from service. After her religious accommodation appeal was denied, she was accused of misconduct and commission of a serious offense for not getting the COVID-19 vaccination shot, Arnett said. She was told that she would be administratively separated within 30 days.
Arnett’s court martial trial is set to begin on Aug. 23, only one month shy of the expiration of her current enlistment and her ability to leave the Marine Corps under normal terms. It is her intention to remain in Japan until Sept. 18, which would fulfill the four-year contract she made with the Marine Corps.
Arnett is hopeful the vaccine mandates will be defeated in the courts sooner than later, saying, “God willing, I would like to remain in the Marine Corps.” She recognizes that she has chosen a difficult path, admitting that her decisions have left her feeling alienated. “I’ve basically been exiled from my squadron,” she said, adding that there seems to be an “unspoken rule” that she does not interact with other service members. She described the experience as “very isolating.”