WASHINGTON D.C. (WKOW) -- Thousands of soldiers are fighting a new battle against the military they once proudly served.
A financial mix-up is causing frustration and fury for soldiers across the nation after they were given bonuses the military now wants them to pay back.
“I had done everything they have asked of me,” Bryan Strother said. “These were promises that were made.” Retired guardsman Chris Van Meter calls it “a slap in the face.”
During the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the National Guard offered bonuses. But now the military wants that money back from thousands of soldiers.
“If we could wave a magic wand and make it go away we would,” said Major General Matthew Beevers. “But then we'd be breaking the law.”
The bonuses were supposed to go to soldiers with skills in high demand. But the Pentagon says it paid out bonuses to guardsmen in all 50 states who never should've qualified for the extra cash.
The National Guard is now going after 9,700 current and retired guardsmen in California alone. It's recouped $22 million so far.
“Month after month we were paying $1,300,” said Van Meter. Van Meter is a Purple Heart recipient who survived a roadside bomb in Iraq. Now, he's being forced to refinance his house to repay $46,000 in bonuses. “You still have thousands of soldiers having to pay this money back,” Van Meter said.
Some are standing their ground. Bryan Strother served in Iraq, and he flat-out refused to pay. “I felt totally betrayed by my commanders,” said Strother.
Strother filed a lawsuit, and the Pentagon waived his bonus repayment. But he's still not backing down. He's kept the case open to support his fellow soldiers.