February 07, 2006
Soldier pays for armor
Army demanded $700 from city man who was wounded
By Eric Eyre
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,
Rebrook, 25, scrounged up the cash from his Army buddies and returned home
to Charleston last Friday.
“I last saw the [body armor] when it was pulled off my bleeding body while I
was being evacuated in a helicopter,” Rebrook said. “They took it off me and
But no one documented that he lost his Kevlar body armor during battle, he
said. No one wrote down that armor had apparently been incinerated as a
Rebrook’s mother, Beckie Drumheler, said she was saddened — and angry — when
she learned that the Army discharged her son with a $700 bill. Soldiers who
serve their country, those who put their lives on the line, deserve better,
“It’s outrageous, ridiculous and unconscionable,” Drumheler said. “I wanted
to stand on a street corner and yell through a megaphone about this.”
Rebrook was standing in the turret of a Bradley Fighting Vehicle when the
roadside bomb exploded Jan. 11, 2005. The explosion fractured his arm and
severed an artery. A Black Hawk helicopter airlifted him to a combat support
hospital in Baghdad.
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.
Even with the injury, Rebrook said he didn’t want to leave the Army. He said
the “medical separation” discharge was the Army’s decision, not his.
So after eight months at Fort Hood, he gathered up his gear and started the
“long process” to leave the Army for good.
Things went smoothly until officers asked him for his “OTV,” his “outer
tactical vest,” or body armor, which was missing. A battalion supply officer
had failed to document the loss of the vest in Iraq.
“They said that I owed them $700,” Rebrook said. “It was like ‘thank you for
your service, now here’s the bill for $700.’ I had to pay for it if I wanted
to get on with my life.”
In the past, the Army allowed to soldiers to write memos, explaining the
loss and destruction of gear, Rebrook said.
But a new policy required a “report of survey” from the field that
documented the loss.
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
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
“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
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.”
To contact staff writer Eric Eyre, use e-mail or call 348-4869.