As Americans prepare to honor fallen soldiers this Memorial Day, one former Oregon National Guard member is wondering why he's being charged more than $3,000 for military gear that was lost after he was shot.
Gary Pfleider, a six-year veteran of the Guard, received a Purple Heart after he was shot by a sniper in Iraq. Some time later, he received a somewhat less gratifying award: A bill for $3,175 for military equipment that was lost when he was shipped out of Iraq for medical treatment.
CBS affiliate KVAL in Eugene, Oregon, reports:
Pfleider feels disrespected by the charges. He said he lost sight of the gear when he left Iraq and believes he should not be responsible for it now....
Pfleider inventoried his belongings and discovered several personal items and military-issued gear, including clothing, canteens and grenades, were missing.
He believed the supervisors at his former unit in Albany had filed paperwork clearing him of the charges. But in June 2009, Pfleider received a bill for $3,175.88. Shortly afterward, the federal government began taking $120 out of his Social Security disability checks each month. Pfleider said his state and federal tax returns were also frozen.
Pfleider says he can't work because of his disability -- he walks with a cane -- and can now no longer afford to visit his daughters in Vancouver, Washington.
Capt. Stephen Bomar, a spokesman for the Oregon Military Department, told KVAL that it's standard procedure for soldiers to be billed for unaccounted-for equipment for which they were responsible. But he said there is a process in place that allows soldiers in situations like Pfleider's to file for reimbursement.
"Pfleider provided KVAL News with a sworn statement he filed at the Albany Armory in February 2010," the station reports. The former soldier believes the military lost his paperwork.
"I think it's just sitting somewhere on somebody's desk at Fort Lewis, and they just don't want to mess with it because they don't think it's a big enough issue," KVAL quoted him as saying.
Capt. Bomar said if it turns it was a paperwork mishap on the military's part, Pfleider will be reimbursed.
The following was broadcast on KVAL channel 13 in Eugene, Oregon, May 28, 2010.