At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, in late 2020, the military posted its deadliest month in November. Those four deaths were an anomaly in a year that saw mostly one or two deaths a month, if any ― until now. Eleven service members died of COVID-19 complications in August 2021, followed immediately by another death in the first few days of September.
The surge brings the military’s count to 43. That shoots the services’ COVID-19 mortality rate to 0.02 percent, with 233,218 reported cases since February 2020. It’s much less than the general American public, which stands at just under 2 percent, but it’s dramatically higher than at any point in 2020.
None of the services members who had died as of Aug. 31 were fully vaccinated against COVID-19, Pentagon spokesman Maj. Charlie Dietz told Military Times. He could not confirm the vaccination status of any of the deaths since September began.
Last year, the military’s death rate was more like 0.0004 percent. It’s 50 times higher now.
Deaths reported since August 24 include:
- Army Spc. Michael Razvillas, 44, died July 13 while serving with Joint Task Force-Texas COVID-19 relief response, though his death was not reported as COVID-19 related until August. He was a National Guardsman with Headquarters Company, 636th Military Intelligence Battalion in Laredo, Texas.
- Army Sgt. Kellice Armstrong, 49, died Aug. 14, while serving in Texas with the U.S.-Mexico border mission. He was a National Guardsman with the 2025th Transportation Company in Jacksonville, Alabama. Though his death was previously announced, it was not confirmed COVID-related until late August.
- Army Sgt. Reggis Madzudzo, 52, died Aug. 24, while serving with the Task Force South COVID-19 response mission. He was a National Guardsman with Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment, 35th Infantry Division in San Antonio, Texas.
- Air Force Master Sgt. Blaine Allen Graves, 37, died Aug. 25. He was a reservist with 622nd Civil Engineer Group at Hurlburt Field, Florida.
- Army Capt. Andrezej “Andrew” Pietraszko, 50, died Aug. 27. He was a reserve chaplain with the 478th Civil Affairs Battalion in Miami, Florida.
- A soldier died Aug. 27, while at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California. The family did not give the Army permission to report any identifying information.
- Army Staff Sgt. Yosiro Luther, 28, died Aug. 30. He was an unmanned aircraft systems operator with the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
- Air Force Maj. Sonnie Lee Stevens, 58, died Aug. 31. He was a nurse with the 4th Medical Group at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina.
- Army Master Sgt. Kevin Barry Lindsey, 55, died Sept. 3. He was a reserve military police officer with the 412th Theater Engineer Command headquarters in Ocean Springs, Mississippi.
The spike in deaths comes as the services release their mandatory COVID-19 policies. The Navy and Marine Corps have mandated vaccination by late November, with an extra 30 days for reservists.
The Air Force Department on Friday announced it would give less time. The deadline for airmen and guardians is Nov. 2, with Dec. 2 for reservists.
The Army has not yet released its policy.
New cases have grown on the order of thousands weekly. To date, 10 percent of service members have contracted COVID-19, compared to 12 percent of U.S. residents.
As of Wednesday, just over 62 percent of the total force was at least partially vaccinated, with 50 percent fully vaccinated. Since the Pentagon announced in August that COVID-19 vaccination would become mandatory, those numbers have not grown precipitously.
Between 1 and 2 percent of the force has been getting vaccinated weekly for the past several months.
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.