UPDATE: KVAL News contacted the public affairs office at Joint Base Lewis-McChord on Tuesday. A spokesman said they are still gathering the paperwork involved in Gary Pfleider II's case. Calls made to the Oregon Military Department public affairs office on Tuesday were not returned. | Latest news
LEBANON, Ore. -- A former Oregon National Guard soldier and Purple Heart recipient is being billed for military-issued equipment he believes was lost in Iraq after he was shot and evacuated from the country.
Gary Pfleider II 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.
He doesn't remember much about getting shot in September 2007. He knows he was riding in a truck on patrol near Balad, Iraq.
"I remember grabbing ahold of my leg and realizing I had blood on my hands," said Pfleider. "And from that point on, until I got loaded onto the Stryker, was just a big blur."
Pfleider was taken to Landsthul Regional Medical Center in Germany and treated for a week at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC, before arriving at what is now called Joint Base Lewis McChord in Washington State.
He lost one-third of the muscle in his left leg and will have to wear a brace for the rest of his life.
After one year, he left the base and the Oregon National Guard. By then, his unit had returned to Oregon.
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.
It's tough for Pfleider, who says he cannot work and cannot afford to visit his young daughters in Vancouver, Washington, to swallow.
"Honestly, I do, 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," said Pfleider. "It's my livelihood."
Capt. Stephen Bomar, a public affairs officer with the Oregon Military Department, said Joint Base Lewis McChord is billing Pfleider.
He said it is standard for soldiers in similar situations to receive bills for missing equipment.
When a soldier is medically evacuated from a country, his or her chain of command takes responsiblity for the equipment. Responsiblity returns to the soldier upon his or her return to the unit, he explained.
"It's one of the processes. That way we keep good accountability for the equipment," said Capt. Bomar.
In those cases, soldiers can submit sworn statements explaining their situation, said Bomar. For example, said Bomar, a soldier would write they were separated from their gear when they were flown out of the country. Other soldiers might be asked to make sworn statements corroborating the account.
The charges would then go away, said Bomar.
Pfleider provided KVAL News with a sworn statement he filed at the Albany Armory in February 2010.
KVAL News asked Bomar if it was possible that Pfleider's paperwork was filed incorrectly.
"I think it could be on our part on this one or could be on the soldier's part," said Bomar. "That's one thing they're going to take a look at."
He added, if the charges are erroneous, Pfleider will be reimbursed and stop being billed. If not, he will still be responsible for the charges.
KVAL News contacted the public affairs office at Joint Base Lewis McChord. They tell KVAL News they are investigating the issue.
Pfleider says he is frustrated and just wants to focus on his upcoming ninth leg surgery and adjusting to life after war.
"Car going down a road backfiring, it still sends me into flashbacks of being over there," he said. "But I deal with it because I know it's part of my life that's never going to leave."