By LOLITA C. BALDOR and ROBERT BURNS
WASHINGTON (AP) — Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has rejected a request by Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt that his state’s National Guard be exempt from a Pentagon requirement that all military members be vaccinated against COVID-19. In a letter to Stitt obtained by The Associated Press, Austin said failure by an Oklahoma Guard member to get vaccinated “may jeopardize” that person’s status in the National Guard. Stitt is a Republican and had asked Austin in early November to suspend the mandate for members of the Oklahoma Guard. In his response denying the request Monday, Austin laid out the Pentagon’s legal justification for the mandate.