About-Face On Charging GI For Armor

U.S. Army First Lt. William "Eddie" Rebrook IV, 25, of Charleston, W.Va., shown in an undated photo provided by his family, stands next to a Bradley Fighting Vehicle during his recent service in Iraq. AP

The Army has decided to return the money it got from a wounded Iraq war veteran who was forced to pay for his damaged body armor.

CBS News Correspondent David Martin observes that charging First Lt. William Rebrook hundreds of dollars for the armor destroyed when he was wounded in combat sounds like the ultimate case of adding insult to injury.

When Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker was asked how that could happen, he admitted he couldn't believe it, telling a congressional panel, "I have no idea why we would ever do something like that."

But Rebrook, out of the Army for a week, told CBS News exactly how it happened.

"The vest was covered in blood," he said, "and then taken off my body and destroyed as a bio-hazard after I was hit."

The armor vest should have been written off as a combat loss, Martin says, but last week, when Rebrook was turning in his gear, he ran into a bureaucratic fog of war.

"I was told that my command would not sign off on a report survey for it, because it had been such a length of time since the time of the incident and that, even if I did and I decided to appeal it, it probably wouldn't go through anyway. So, I didn't want to waste anymore time. I wanted to get on with my life."

Rather than fill out the forms and fight the bureaucracy, he paid the Army $632.39.

"I couldn't get my final paycheck from the Army until after I cleared Central Issue Facility, and I couldn't clear Central Issue Facility until I paid for my body armor, so it's sort of a 'Catch 22.' I felt nasty about it. I felt that I would have liked to have received better treatment from people, but in any large bureaucracy, they never make it easy for you."

A blog has already raised $5,000 that will more than cover the cost of the armor, Martin points out, but Rebrook won't need it, since the Army now says it plans to pay him back.
  • Brian Dakss

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