NORMAN, Okla. (KFOR) – Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, Capt. Daniel Knick is getting ready to walk away from what he thought would be a long military career.
Knick was planning on 20 years of military service but just a decade in, he’s relying on what he told KFOR is a long-held and faith-filled conviction as he prepares to leave.
“Odds are this is the end of the line for my career,” said Knick, an Air Force officer in a Tennant unit of Tinker Air Force Base. “I put my faith and trust in God completely with everything to include my own children, my family, my health [and] my welfare,” he added.
Knick applied for a religious exemption in the fall of 2021, and followed up with an appeal after it was denied. After the second request was refused, he applied for a voluntary separation. That, too, was rejected.
“I volunteered to separate, and then at that point, you’re pretty much at the whim of the Air Force,” he added, while confirming that he recently received a letter of reprimand, a document that could have negative implications on his military career, adding that it would be “very difficult to ever remove.”
The Air Force outlined their COVID-19 vaccine guidance back in December, saying in part, “For those who refused to obey a lawful order to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, commanders will continue to take appropriate administrative and disciplinary actions consistent with law and Department of the Air Force policy.”
Experts said the policy and Knick’s denial likely resulted from a need to stay combat-ready.
“They look at it as a readiness issue. And you can see on each side how there are concerns about that,” said Lt. Col. Steve Russell, U.S. Army Ret., and a former Oklahoma congressman. “[However], there’s no consistency service to service, even though the courts have determined that we will let commanders and servicers determine the health or readiness of their organization.”
Knick told KFOR on Monday that he’s still hoping for a favorable outcome in his case.
“Exactly what I’m facing right now…a letter of reprimand, loss and potential loss of benefits, you know, a characterization that could be other than honorable. It can be a not so good circumstance. But the reality of the matter is, if you have a conviction, those circumstances really pale in comparison.”