SPRINGFIELD, (WTVO) — The Illinois National Guard said it would welcome back “with open arms” about 300 soldiers who refused to comply with the COVID-19 vaccine mandate, now that the requirement has been rescinded.

The US Department of Defense set a date of March 17th for the military to rescind its vaccination policies after President Joe Biden signed a bill killing the mandate on December 23rd, 2022.

Biden had opposed the Republican-backed provision, agreeing with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin that lifting the mandate was not in the best interests of the military, according to White House officials. But he ultimately accepted GOP demands in order to win passage of the legislation.

The contentious political issue, which has divided America, forced more than 8,400 troops out of the military for refusing to obey a lawful order when they declined to get the vaccine. Thousands of others have sought religious and medical exemptions.

Roughly 99% of active-duty troops in the Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps had gotten the vaccine, and 98% of the Army. The Guard and Reserve rates are lower, but generally are more than 90%.

According to The Center Square, the Illinois National Guard said one Illinois Air National Guard individual was discharged for refusing the vaccine.

From the Guard’s 13,000 members, 20 airmen and 293 soldiers were barred from attending training between July 1st, 2022 and January 9th, 2023.

“With that prohibition now lifted, the Illinois National Guard is working with these Soldiers and Airmen to return to a drilling status,” Illinois National Guard Public Affairs Director Brad Leighton said. “These individuals will be welcomed back into our formations with open arms.”