Wounded Soldier Billed for Bloodied Body Armor
By ALLISON BARKER, AP
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Feb. 8) - A former U.S. soldier injured in Iraq says he was forced to pay $700 for a blood-soaked body armor vest that was destroyed after medics removed it to treat shrapnel wounds to his arm.
First Lt. William "Eddie" Rebrook IV, 25, had to leave the Army because of his injuries. But before he could be discharged last week, he had to scrounge up cash from his buddies to pay for the body armor or face not being discharged for months. Rebrook was billed because a supply officer failed to document that the vest had been destroyed more than a year ago as a biohazard.
"I last saw the (body armor) when it was pulled off my bleeding body while I was being evacuated in a helicopter," Rebrook told his hometown newspaper, The Charleston Gazette. "They took it off me and burned it."
Rebrook's story spurred action Tuesday from U.S. Sens. Robert C. Byrd and Jay Rockefeller, both West Virginia Democrats.
"I've been in touch with his family, and I've already written (Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld) to request that they immediately refund his money and review this horrendous policy," said Rockefeller, a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. "I'm shocked that he has been treated this way by our military."
Byrd questioned Gen. Peter Schoomaker, chief of staff of the Army, on Tuesday during a Senate Armed Services Committee budget hearing.
"How can it be that the Defense Department, which is requesting $439 billion in this budget, has to resort to dunning a wounded soldier for $700 to replace a piece of body armor?"
-- Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.V.
"I last saw the (body armor) when it was pulled off my bleeding body while I was being evacuated in a helicopter. They took it off me and burned it."
-- Eddie Rebrook, Army First Lt.
"My son loved the Army and was proud of serving his country. For any soldier to be treated like this is outrageous."
-- Beckie Drumheler, Rebrook's mother
"We certainly have procedures that account for battle loss, and I just find it a highly unusual story. But we'll certainly follow up and correct it if there's any truth to it."
-- Gen. Peter Schoomaker, Army chief of staff
Sources: AP, The Charleston Gazette
Schoomaker called Rebrook's story unusual and promised Byrd to "correct it if there's any truth to it."
Rockefeller said he first met Rebrook when he was an ROTC cadet at a Charleston high school and later nominated him to the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., where he graduated with honors. Rebrook then spent four years on active duty, including six months in Iraq.
Rebrook's mother, Beckie Drumheler, said soldiers who serve their country and put their lives on the line deserve better. "My son loved the Army and was proud of serving his country. For any soldier to be treated like this is outrageous," she said.
Rebrook was standing in the turret of a Bradley Fighting Vehicle when a roadside bomb exploded Jan. 11, 2005. The explosion fractured his arm and severed an artery. His arm never completely recovered despite seven operations. He still has range-of- motion problems and pain.
Rebrook said he tried to get a battalion commander to sign a waiver for the Kevlar vest, but the officer declined. He was told he would have to supply statements from witnesses to verify the body armor was taken from him and burned.
His story has prompted donations from residents. A local radio station raised $700 within 90 minutes Tuesday, and one woman dropped off a $200 check by his mother's home.
"I thought that was pretty nice that people care," said Rebrook's stepfather, Charles Drumheler.
Rebrook's father, Ed Rebrook, a Charleston lawyer, said while the donations were appreciated, his son did not plan to accept them.
rumsfish should be fired for this.