FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- The COVID-19 vaccine mandate is standing in the way of awards for a Fort Bragg soldier who just retired from the military after 25 years of serving our country.
"I knew my 25 years was good enough. I was like, 'OK, I'm going to get out, let some other younger soldiers move on progressing their military career," SFC Eric Diggs said.
During his last year of service, the military mandated all soldiers get the COVID vaccine. Diggs requested an exemption to the vaccine because before retiring, he was going on what's known as terminal leave, which is taking any accumulated unused time off.
"I took the admin exemption, processed it through the chain of command, my battalion brigade, and it was approved."
Diggs thought everything was fine as his terminal leave took him into his official retirement from the military. This summer while Diggs was planning his military retirement awards ceremony he learned the bad news.
"I found out that my awards were denied because I wasn't vaccinated." Diggs was not vaccinated during the military-mandated deadline, and while he thought the exemption was approved, it was eventually denied. "I did what my country asked me to do. To say that because I don't have a vaccination, which is a choice, which I fought for people to have choices in this country, to get an end-of-tour award it's kind of a little slap in the face."
Diggs' wife LaKissa said it's hard to see her husband, who gave so much for our country these last 25 years, get the disappointing news of not being allowed to have his retirement awards ceremony.
As for the mix-up of Diggs's vaccine exemption being approved and then denied, a representative with the North Carolina National Guard said their offices are continuing to collect all communications shared with Diggs regarding the denial of his exemptions, his awards status and his retirement. The representative said they would release any necessary updates.
As for Diggs, he adds, "It's not really so much about the awards. It's just how things are handled through to veterans."