February 08, 2006
Army blasted over soldier’s body armor
Sympathizers raise nearly $6,000 to repay Army for missing item
By Eric Eyre
West Virginia’s two U.S. senators asked top military leaders Tuesday to
explain why 1st Lt. William “Eddie” Rebrook IV had to reimburse the U.S.
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
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
“I was outraged this morning when I read the story about what happened to
Eddie,” said Rockefeller, who nominated Rebrook for admission to the U.S.
Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., 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
At a U.S. 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
“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
“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
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 U.S. Army for
the destroyed body armor and gear. He plans to pay them back out of his own
A Charleston radio station, WKWS-FM 96.1, raised $700 for Rebrook in less
than an hour Tuesday morning. One woman hand-delivered a check for $350 to
the radio station Tuesday.
“We read the story on the air, and the phones started ringing,” said the
station’s Mike Fitzgerald.
The bulk of money for Rebrook was raised Tuesday after the soldier’s story
was posted on americablog.com, a popular liberal political blog.
Donations ranged from $1 to $400, said John Aravosis, who runs the Internet
blog. More than 187 people gave money. About 200 people posted to the blog.
“Everybody thinks liberals hate soldiers,” Aravosis said. “But the majority
of people get that it’s not right to abuse our troops.”
Rebrook’s right arm was shattered in an explosion while he was standing in
the turret of a Bradley Fighting Vehicle in January 2005. Field medics
removed his body armor, and it was later incinerated, Rebrook said. A Black
Hawk helicopter airlifted him to a combat support hospital in Baghdad.
Rebrook, who graduated with honors from West Point, said he was never given
any records that documented the body armor loss.
When he turned in his gear last week, Rebrook said he was told to pay nearly
$700 or face not being discharged for weeks. The bill included a $570 charge
for his Kevlar vest and gear destroyed in battle, and $130 for other lost
Rebrook said he was asked to provide statements from witnesses that he lost
his body armor in battle.
He said he thought he could write a memo, explaining that the body armor was
stripped from him after he was injured. But that wasn’t sufficient, he
learned last week.
“I understand what they were saying, but from my perspective it was a hard
pill to swallow,” Rebrook said Tuesday.
Despite the “bureaucratic snafu,” as Rebrook calls it, he holds no grudges.
“I love the Army,” Rebrook said. “I love my soldiers. I loved being in it.”
Dozens of Charleston Gazette readers called the newspaper and sent e-mails,
criticizing the Army and praising Rebrook for his service in Iraq. Some
readers offered to pay Rebrook for the entire cost of his body armor.
“It’s a disgrace to humanity for our military to do that to a young boy who
graduated from West Point,” said William Crouch of St. Albans. “I’m so mad
now I can’t stand it.”
To contact staff writer Eric Eyre, use e-mail or call 348-4869.