Keesler Court-Martials Man For Refusing Anthrax Vaccine

For the second time this year, a military serviceman will be court-martialed. Today Keesler's Second Air Force commander announced Captain John Buck will be court-martialed for refusing to take the anthrax vaccine.

Last year, Seabee David Ponder also refused the vaccine. Ponder was court-martialed, lost his rank, and is serving a 60-day prison sentence.

No date is set for Buck's court-martial, but Buck's military career as a an emergency room physician is on the line. If he's found "guilty" of disobeying a direct order he could be kicked out of the Air Force and sentenced to prison for up to five years.

Captain John Buck says he's not surprised by Keesler's decision to court-martial him. Buck says he just couldn't accept the alternative, an Article 15, which means his commander would have decided if he were guilty of disobeying an order to take the anthrax vaccine. "There were several reasons why I refused to accept the Article 15, said Captain John Buck, M.D. of Keesler, "One of which was if I did something wrong, which I still do not feel that I've done anything wrong, then I wanted to have my day in court."

Buck says his pending court martial is not the issue. The real issue is about the rights of military personnel. Buck is not only worried about possible side effects of the vaccine, he also questions the conditions under which it's made. There is only one lab in the country that makes the vaccine. When Buck started digging into its history he says he learned it has not passed any FDA inspections. In fact, Buck says the FDA issued reports criticizing the lab. The lab's been closed several months. Buck said that they have had numerous problems with contamination, re-dating, and problems with the manufacturing process not being validated. All are documented FDA reports and it was all made during the time that the current vaccine was being given to our troops.

Buck also said those problems should concern the Department of Defense that it may be putting the troops at risk by forcing them to take the vaccine. He says the troops deserve better. A Keesler spokesperson says Buck's allegations against the lab that makes the vaccine are the not the issue of his court martial. The spokesperson says the court-martial will only address his disobeying a direct order. Along with his two military attorneys, Buck says he has hired an attorney in Virginia who specializes in military law to lead his defense.

No date has been set for the court-martial.