During Operation Iraqi Freedom, inadequate body armor was issued to thousands of troops. I know -- I was one of them. I commanded thirty-seven infantrymen who rode into Baghdad in the spring of 2003 with outdated, inferior flak jackets. Later I learned that as many as 40,000 other Troops went to Iraq with the same substandard gear.
One of them was Spc. Richard Murphy, who said,
“When my company landed in theatre in May, I was one of the few soldiers equipped with body armor effective at stopping powerful AK-47 ammunition. My mother, an elementary school art teacher, shipped the bullet-proof ceramic plates to me from the States. Other soldiers weren't so lucky, having to raid buildings and patrol dangerous streets while wearing inferior Vietnam-era flak jackets.”
Richard didn’t have the proper equipment to fight effectively in a war zone, so his mother bought it for him on Ebay. This is a true story. And there are countless others like it. Thousands of Troops and military families paid out of their own pockets to increase their survivability and that of their subordinates.
From the day we launched Operation Truth, we've worked hard to shed light on this issue. We took it to the media, demanding legislative action.
And someone in Washington responded. After learning about stories like Rich’s, Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT) created legislation last year to force the DOD to reimburse troops, their families, and charitable groups for such purchases. President Bush signed the bill into law in October 2004, but the Department of Defense has never complied with this provision. First, Rumsfeld screwed up by failing to get our troops the equipment they needed. Now he is failing them again by disregarding the reimbursement legislation. Full story here.
I can hear the ghost of Gomer Pyle somewhere yelling “Well surprise, surprise!” Maybe a few hundred bucks spent on body armor isn’t much to Secretary Rumsfeld, who makes about $175,700. But a few hundred dollars is a big deal to Richard Murphy. Last year his salary as a Specialist (E-4) was about $20,000.
Thankfully, Senator Dodd is not giving up. Today he will hold a press conference, “to announce that he will introduce an amendment to the Defense Appropriations bill directing the Department of Defense to comply with existing law that requires military personnel and others to be reimbursed for purchasing essential military equipment for Troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.” If you want an easy way to really support the Troops, use this easy link to contact your Senators today and tell them to support Senator Dodd and this important amendment.
Not yet convinced to do something? Check out this incredible video.
“During a routine patrol in Baghdad June 2, Army Pfc. Stephen Tschiderer, a medic, was shot in the chest by an enemy sniper, hiding in a van just 75 yards away. The incident was filmed by the insurgents.
"Tschiderer, with E Troop, 101st “Saber” Cavalry Division, attached to 3rd Battalion, 156th Infantry Regiment, 256th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, was knocked to the ground from the impact, but he popped right back up, took cover and located the enemy’s position.
"After tracking down the now-wounded sniper with a team from B Company, 4th Battalion, 1st Iraqi Army Brigade, Tschiderer secured the terrorist with a pair of handcuffs and gave medical aid to the terrorist who’d tried to kill him just minutes before.” More on this here
Pfc. Tschiderer had new body armor. Without it, he would probably be dead. We as Troops don’t “go to war with the Army we have.” We go to war with the Army we are given by Rumsfeld. He and his DOD bureaucrats have failed our troops again, but you can help fix the problem. They say that they support the troops. Now it is time to make them put their money where their mouth is.