Hurt soldier billed for gear to be repaid
Lieutenant shelled out $650 to gain discharge after injury in Iraq
From Larry Shaughnessy
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A former Army soldier will be reimbursed after he was required to pay for his equipment when he was wounded in Iraq, a military spokesman said Wednesday.
First Lt. William "Eddie" Rebrook was discharged for medical reasons last week after being injured in Iraq, and the Army said Wednesday he paid about $650 for 18 items that he was issued before going to Iraq.
"Whether procedures weren't followed or the system failed him is currently under investigation," said a written statement issued by a spokesman at Fort Hood in Texas. "What is clear is that this command is going to do the right thing by Lieutenant Rebrook, who is one of our nation's proud veterans."
The statement also said, "There is no question that [Rebrook] should not have to pay for the body armor of his that was destroyed in Iraq."
But that development came after the matter garnered national attention Tuesday when a West Virginia newspaper reported Rebrook's story.
The newspaper account prompted Sen. Robert Byrd, a West Virginia Democrat, to question top military leaders, including Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.
"How can it be that the Army is charging wounded soldiers for replacing damaged body armor?" he asked.
Gen. Peter Schoomaker, the top Army officer, promised to look into the matter.
"We certainly have procedures that account for matter loss, and I just find it a highly unusual story," he said.
The Charleston Gazette reported that Rebrook paid the Army for his outer tactical vest, which the newspaper called "body armor." Rebrook told the newspaper he didn't know what happened to the bloody vest because it had been removed when he was wounded.
On Wednesday, the Army said Rebrook would not have been asked to pay the money if he had filled out two required forms.
Those comments drew an angry rebuke from Rebrook's father, Edward Rebrook of Charleston, West Virginia.
"That is a lie," the soldier's father told CNN. "It's a case of CYA by the Army."
William Rebrook was told the 18 items were missing and that he could pay for them or fill out two forms saying that the equipment had been lost, damaged or destroyed in combat.
However, Edward Rebrook said his son would have had to stay in the Army, continue to live on base at Fort Hood and wait possibly weeks while those forms were processed. Instead, he chose to pay cash for the missing items and get out of the Army.
The Gazette on Wednesday quoted the soldier as dismissing the story as a "bureaucratic snafu."
"I love the Army," he told the paper. "I love my soldiers. I loved being in it."
Hours after the initial story was published, a number of people donated nearly $700 to Rebrook to pay for the gear. Rebrook's father said that money has been donated to a family whose home was lost during Hurricane Katrina.
Meanwhile, the Web site Americablog ran the story and claimed to have raised nearly $6,000 for the soldier. The father said the family members had not received any money from Americablog, but that if they get it, they will donate it to a soldier's support group.
A Pentagon source said the reimbursement check should be sent to Rebrook "in a matter of days."
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