Friday, April 23, 1999

Isle Marine faces trial
over anthrax shots

By Gregg K. Kakesako


Marine Pvt. Roman Lezo will be the first service member in Hawaii to face a court-martial for refusing to participate in the military's mandatory anthrax inoculation program.

Lezo is one of 16 Marines at Marine Base Hawaii in Kaneohe to balk at taking the series of six vaccinations. At Pearl Harbor, five sailors also have rejected the military's assurances that the shots are safe.

Petty Officer 1st Class Elsie Polak, 31, and Petty Officer 2nd Class James Marttila, 23, were to face an administrative hearing today aboard their Pearl Harbor-based vessel, the USS Frederick.

So far, only one Hawaii service member -- a Pearl Harbor sailor -- has been discharged for refusing to go along with the inoculation program.

Lezo, a helicopter mechanic, will be arraigned before a Marine Corps military judge April 28 at Kaneohe and a court-martial date will be set at that time.

He has refused the vaccination on three occasions and has been demoted in rank, docked pay, given extra duty and restricted to the barracks. Similar administrative punishments have been doled out to the other Kaneohe Marines who have refused the shots.

The military says about 200 service members worldwide have refused the vaccine. To date 220,000 service members have been vaccinated. By 2003, all 2.4 million service members are supposed to be inoculated.

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