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Go ahead and join the Army if you think you can afford it

Well, here we go again. I just cannot get over how inept the United State government can be sometimes. And then again, I don’t know why I am so surprised when I hear stories such as the one I am about to relate to you.

It seems there was a soldier, William Rebrook IV, an Army lieutenant from West Virginia, who was wounded in Iraq.

Rebook, a West Point graduate, was forced to leave the service due to his wounds.

But before he could be discharged, the Army demanded that he pay them $700 for his body armor, which did not make it back to the states with him. It seems that when he was hurt, the medics took the armor, and the rest of his gear and clothing off so they could treat him. He was then evacuated for further treatment, and the armor, according to what Rebrook knows, was burned because, as it was covered with blood, had become a bio-hazard.

But some supply sergeant along the way didn’t record in his records that the armor had been destroyed, thus leaving the wounded lieutenant responsible for it.

So, the Army, in its infinite wisdom, told Rebrook that he would not be discharged for months if he didn’t pony up the money for the equipment. And, according to a statement by the lieutenant’s mother, he had to pay cash.

Not having that kind of money, Rebrook had to turn to family and friends for help.

Once this story hit the wires, it also garnered the attention of several high-ranking officials, including the senators from West Virginia, Robert C. Byrd and Jay Rockefeller.

Rockefeller immediately contact Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, asking that the $700 be returned.

Byrd, according to the Associated Press, took his concerns to Gen. Peter Schoomaker, chief of staff for the Army.

I love the general’s response.

He, according to the published report, called Rebrook’s story “unusual,” and promised Sen. Byrd that it would be corrected n wait for it, here it comes n “If there’s any truth to it.”

I cannot believe the audacity of this man, implying that this whole story is fabricated.

What we have here is a brave American, a young man n Rebrook is 25 n he was willing to give his life for his country, and some “holier-than-thou” general is for all intents and purposes calling him a liar.

What more does the general need in the way of proof? This man was wounded, had seven surgeries on his arm and spent eight months at Ft. Hood, Texas, recuperating. The arm never healed properly, and as a result, he has been released from service.

The AP article further stated that Rebrook, once released from the Texas hospital, tried to get a battalion commander to sign a waiver for the missing gear, something that is allowed by the Army. But the officer refused the lieutenant’s request. He was also told that he needed witnesses to the fact that the armor, torn from his body in an effort to save his life, was later destroyed.

This is so wrong on so many levels.

What are we to expect in the future when it comes to equipping our GIs? Are they to bring their own equipment? Will they have to buy what they need from the supply depot?

I hope that this story n which I am sure is playing out in different variations everyday in the military n ticks you off as much as it does me.

And I hope you get mad enough to send a letter to Donald Rumsfeld and the general letting them know what you think of this.

Remember, while this happened to a soldier from West Virginia, who’s to say the next time it won’t be your son or daughter, or the son or daughter of your friend or neighbor?

Want to send a comment to Washington, D.C. on this one? Here are a few addresses:

Donald H. Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense, 1000 Defense Pentagon, Washington, D.C. 20301-1000;

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 9999 Joint Staff Pentagon, Washington, D.C. 20318-9999;

Secretary of the Army, 101 Army Pentagon, Washington, D.C. 20310-0101;

Army Chief of Staff, 200 Army Pentagon, Washington, D.C. 20310-0200

Grant is the managing editor of the News-Herald. Contact him at doug.grant@suffolknewsherald.com