The last time 1st Lt. William “Eddie” Rebrook IV saw his body armor, he was lying on a stretcher in Iraq, his arm shattered and covered in blood.
A field medic tied a tourniquet around Rebrook’s right arm to stanch the bleeding from shrapnel wounds. Soldiers yanked off his blood-soaked body armor. He never saw it again.
But last week, Rebrook was forced to pay $700 for that body armor, blown up by a roadside bomb more than a year ago.
He was leaving the Army for good because of his injuries. He turned in his gear at his base in Fort Hood, Texas. He was informed there was no record that the body armor had been stripped from him in battle.
He was told to pay nearly $700 or face not being discharged for weeks, perhaps months..................................
He was later flown to a hospital in Germany for surgery, then on to Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital in Washington, D.C., for more surgeries. Doctors operated on his arm seven times in all.
But Rebrook’s right arm never recovered completely. He still has range of motion problems. He still has pain when he turns over to sleep at night. ...................................
Rebrook said he knows other soldiers who also have been forced to pay for equipment destroyed in battle.
“It’s a combat loss,” he said. “It shouldn’t be a cost passed on to the soldier. If a soldier’s stuff is hit by enemy fire, he shouldn’t have to pay for it.”
Rebrook said he tried to get a battalion commander to sign a waiver on the battle armor, but the officer declined. Rebrook was told he’d have to supply statements from witnesses to verify the body armor was taken from him and burned.
“There’s a complete lack of empathy from senior officers who don’t know what it’s like to be a combat soldier on the ground,” Rebrook said. “There’s a whole lot of people who don’t want to help you. They’re more concerned with process than product.”
Rebrook, who graduated with honors from the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., spent more than four years on active duty. He served six months in Iraq.
Now, Rebrook is sending out résumés, trying to find a job. He plans to return to college to take a couple of pre-med classes and apply to medical school. He wants to be a doctor someday.
“From being an infantryman, I know what it’s like to hurt people,” Rebrook said. “But now I’d like to help people.”