By Eric Eyre
The Charleston Gazette
Wednesday 08 February 2006
Sympathizers raise nearly $6,000 to repay Army for missing item.
West Virginia's two US senators asked top military leaders Tuesday to explain why 1st Lt. William "Eddie" Rebrook IV had to reimburse the US Army $700 last week for body armor and other gear damaged after he was seriously wounded by a roadside bomb in Iraq.
More than 200 people - from West Virginia and across the country - donated more than $5,700 to Rebrook after reading about his body armor payment to the Army.
Rebrook, 25, who was medically discharged from an army base in Fort Hood, Texas, last week, said he wouldn't keep the donations. He's passing along the money to charity and a Louisiana woman who lost her home in Hurricane Katrina. He said the woman's son helped save his life in Iraq.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., sent a letter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld Tuesday, demanding that the Army refund Rebrook's money immediately.
"I was outraged this morning when I read the story about what happened to Eddie," said Rockefeller, who nominated Rebrook for admission to the US Military Academy in West Point, NY, when Rebrook attended George Washington High School in Charleston. "I'm heartbroken that he can't continue his career, and I'm shocked that he has been treated this way by our military."
At a US Senate hearing Tuesday, Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., asked why Rebrook was forced to pay for body armor damaged when he was wounded in Iraq.
"How can it be that the Army is charging wounded soldiers for replacing damaged body armor? Is this standard practice?" Byrd asked during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the Department of Defense's 2007 budget.
Rumsfeld and Gen. Peter Schoomaker, the Army's chief of staff, attended the hearing.
"That is a very unusual story," Schoomaker responded. "I have no idea why we would ever do something like that. We have issued body armor, the very best that exists in the world. Every soldier has it.
"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."
"First Cavalry Division leadership is going to do everything to ensure this issue is brought to a conclusion that is both in line with procedures that apply to all its soldiers and in the best interest of our veterans who have served so proudly and honorably in Iraq," Lt. Col. Scott Bleichwehl, the division's spokesman at Fort Hood, told the Killeen Daily Herald for today's edition.
Bleichwehl said soldiers are not held financially responsible for any equipment lost, damaged or destroyed in combat.
Rebrook said he borrowed $700 from his buddies to pay back the US Army for the destroyed body armor and gear. He plans to pay them back out of his own pocket.