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A former soldier from Texas has been portrayed as victim in the media for battling the government over a 10-year-old charge for missing Army gear. What hasn’t been reported until now, however, is his checkered military career.
Gerrad Lee Branum told Army Times on Wednesday that the federal government withheld nearly $1,700 from his tax refund over two rucksacks and one duffel bag containing all of his gear and medical records that were lost when he was redeploying from Iraq in 2004.
“My baggage was carried by another soldier, which was a sergeant, because I was on crutches — I went over to Iraq on crutches,” Branum alleged. “By the time I got back home to Fort Hood ... my bags were not there.”
Branum said he contacted his commanding officer and filed a “field loss” report with his central issue facility, which could not determine why the bags failed to reach Fort Hood, Texas. When he left the military, there was no indication that he would have to pay for the loss, he said.
Years later, the IRS has recouped the government’s loss by taking money from his tax refund, Branum alleges.
“As a government, you took my money in all aspects for a field loss for my service to my country,” Branum told WBOY. “It is not right. It is wrong, and it is immoral.”
Army Times attempted to check the validity of Branum’s allegations. When asked about the former soldier’s record, Capt. Tim Irvin, a spokesman at Human Resources Command, said Branum was found guilty at a court-martial in 2003 of writing 20 bad checks worth a total of $5,800 while he was stationed in South Korea. He was busted from specialist to private and elected to be discharged rather than serve the sentence of 90 days hard labor, Irvin said.
It’s unclear why he was deployed after the court-martial, but records show he served briefly in Iraq, from Feb. 18, 2004, to April 1, 2004. He left the Army in 2005.
Branum acknowledged he received an other-than-honorable discharge, but he claims the Army’s version of events is incorrect and that his checkbook was actually stolen and someone else wrote the checks.
“I told them flat out, ‘Number one, my checkbook was taken,’ ” Branum told Army Times. “They said, ‘Well, you got any proof?’ I was like, ‘I can’t prove crap because I was drunk off my butt!’ ”
WBOY reports that Branum is considering taking legal action to regain his $1,700. The WBOY report makes no mention of Branum’s criminal record.