Air Force Academy assistant athletics coach fired, claims it was due to refusal to get COVID-19 vaccine | The gallery

Dana Lyon has spent Memorial Day for the past few years receiving calls from people sending their condolences and appreciation for her husband, David, who died in Afghanistan in a suicide bombing in December 2017.

This year was different. The Gold Star widow said that on May 31, the US Air Force Academy told her she would not be renewing her contract as an employee of the athletic department and said that by law her last day would be 30 days later, June 30. assistant pitching coach for the academy track team.

Lyon believes her dismissal is due to her not being vaccinated against COVID-19.

Lyon and her attorney Mike Rose appeared on Fox News on June 9, where Lyon claimed she was fired two months before her retirement benefits began.

In the dismissal letter she received on May 31, Lyon said she was told the dismissal was neither disciplinary nor personal. She requested and was granted a 60-day extension to pursue her retirement goals, according to Dean Miller, chief of media operations at the Air Force Academy.

She will work in an administrative capacity until August, but Lyon said she felt betrayed by the academy, where she won two NCAA javelin titles, where she graduated in 2006, was inducted into the Hall of the academy athletics fame in 2015. , and has worked in the athletics department since 2014.

“This job has been my coping mechanism, and grieving is a complicated process,” Lyon said.

Moreover, in the email granting his extension, Lyon said he was told his dismissal was due to his performance.

However, Lyon said they never received a performance warning and were never placed on a performance enhancement plan. The only time her professional status came up, she said, was in reference to her unvaccinated status.

Miller said the decision to terminate employment with Lyon’s athletic department had nothing to do with her not being vaccinated, noting there were others in the department sports that shared the same status. Air Force officials would not say if other trainers were unvaccinated, citing the Privacy Act.

According to Miller, all academy employees receive feedback on their performance throughout their employment, including term employees like Lyon.

Lyon said athletics head coach Ralph Lindeman told him department heads had asked her about Lyon’s professional performance because they could not fire her due to her vaccination status following a district court injunction of President Joe Biden’s vaccination mandate for federal employees in January. .

According to Lyon, Lindeman said “she’s outstanding, exceeds expectations.”

Lindeman died March 6 at the age of 70.

Lyon spoke to The Gazette about his work defending his coaching tenure.

Her first season as a full-time pitching coach, a position she held in 2019, was cut short by the cancellation of the outdoor season. Still, Lyon had two record-setting athletes during the indoor season, the Falcons website says.

Lyon said it had two athletes qualifying for the preliminary rounds at the NCAA championships last year, and three qualified this year.

She was on staff for the Air Force men’s indoor track team that won the Mountain West Conference title in February.

Despite the accomplishments, she has no plans to return to training anywhere else.

“I’ve had job opportunities for the past five years and that’s all I ever wanted to do,” she said.

Continuing the legacy in which she competed has been her goal. She said she was unsure if she truly mourned her husband’s death, choosing instead to immerse herself in his work to inspire and serve athletes, hoping to instill gratitude and humility.

Lyons said she has commissioned or sworn in 25 graduates over the past eight years.

After August, Lyon said she would take a sabbatical to heal and reunite with friends and family she was previously too busy to see.

Contact the author: [email protected]. Eden Laase of The Gazette contributed to this report.

Denise W. Whigham