This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," September 29, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.
JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Did you know that many U.S. troops have dished out their own cash for life-saving equipment on the front lines that the military would not or could not or just plain didn't provide?
Congress demanded the Pentagon pay back those soldiers nearly a year ago, but not one soldier has been reimbursed yet.
Joining us now is Sen. Chris Dodd, a Democrat from Connecticut. We're also joined by Marine Sergeant Todd Bowers who did two tours in Iraq. He's now a reservist. He says he paid for and used equipment in Iraq that saved him from a sniper's bullet.
So Todd, let me go to you first. What was it that you bought, figuring it would help save your life — that actually did? What was the piece of equipment?
SGT. TODD BOWERS, IRAQ WAR VETERAN: What I purchased was an ACOG. It's an advanced combat optical gunsite (search). It's basically a scope that mounts on top of your M-16 rifle. And what it did was it allowed me to acquire targets and make sure that they weren't civilians, anybody else that might be in the way, and make sure that I was aiming at bad guys. Ironically, it ended up stopping a sniper bullet that was aimed straight at my head.
GIBSON: So OK. So it wasn't like a bit of body armor?
BOWERS: No, it wasn't.
GIBSON: I've heard of soldiers having to buy that.
BOWERS: Yes, yes. Many soldiers I know had to purchase plates for their interceptor vests, which became an issue quite awhile back.
GIBSON: All right. Now, Sen. Dodd, you guys insisted that the Pentagon reimburse these soldiers and I believe you passed legislation. What happened?
SEN. CHRIS DODD, D-CONN: Well, we passed it over a year ago, almost a year and a half ago, 91-0, over the objections, I might add, of the Pentagon at the time, but people like John Warner, a good friend of the soldier out there, said, "No, we ought to do this." This is to reimburse not only the soldiers but also their families, and in some cases, John, even communities, who went out and bought equipment for people from within their community who were serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.
The mandate was very simple. For a limited period of time, with a cap on the amount that could be reimbursed, it ought to be done. Now, it's almost 18 months later, through 15 pieces of correspondence I've had with the senior-level Pentagon people, nothing has ever happened with it.
So we're about to introduce new language here in the next day or two to this defense appropriations bill that would say to people like Todd Bowers and others, "When your family goes out and pays" — in his case, I think it was $600. Todd can correct me on this — (CROSSTALK) — for a $1,200 purchase. It was standard equipment, by the way. This wasn't an exceptional piece of equipment. He should have been issued this to begin with — "that you will get reimbursed for that."
These people out there don't lack bravery, but if they lack the equipment that they ought to be getting: armor bar, the ceramic plates he just talked about, these CamelBac (search) hydration systems and so forth. The list goes even down to combat boots.
We're allowing these young people to go into these combat areas without the kind of protection they ought to have, and when their families or they or their communities go out and have to buy this stuff on their own to make sure their sons and daughters, husbands and wives are going to be well protected, we ought to reimburse them for that. And the Pentagon shouldn't ...
GIBSON: Sergeant Bowers, do you feel ripped off?
BOWERS: I don't feel ripped off. I purchased this to help myself. But there are many other instances where people may not have $600 lying around. I was fortunate to have that, and I think a lot of soldiers, you know, really deserve to have that money back.
GIBSON: Todd Bowers. Todd, thanks very much.
BOWERS: Thank you.
GIBSON: And we appreciate your service.
And Senator Dodd, thank you. Hope you get the money for them. Appreciate it.
DODD: Thank you.
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