Says the Army shortchanged him
By Casey Farrar
Published: Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Congressman Paul W. Hodes, D-N.H., has asked the U.S. Department of
Defense to investigate why a Keene soldier who recently returned from
15 months in Iraq didn't receive the bonus pay he was promised.
Army Specialist Kevin S. Clark 2nd, who returned last month from his
deployment and is serving the remaining four months of his enlistment
in Fort Stewart, Ga., says an Army recruiter promised him a $14,000
bonus for joining a combat unit, but several months into the payments
he was informed a mistake was made.
He said Army officials told him shortly before he left for Iraq last
year he'd have to pay back $3,000 of the bonus that he had already been paid.
In recent years, the Army has increasingly leaned on incentive
bonuses to help ramp up recruitment of soldiers to fight in Iraq and
With Army recruitment numbers falling 7 percent short of goals in May
the first time that's happened in almost two years the military
recently sweetened the deal for recruits even more.
Earlier this summer, the Army increased to 45 the number of specialty
jobs eligible for $15,000 cash payments when recruits sign for a
The military also raised to $25,000 the maximum combined bonus for
all recruits who sign for three-year commitments. That's an increase
from the $10,000 to $20,000 bonuses previously available only for a
limited number of specialty jobs.
The Clarks say their son's case illustrates a concern raised by some
of his fellow soldiers about the link between recruitment promises
and military follow-through.
A 2003 Keene High School graduate, Clark spent a year in college
before joining the Army three years ago.
Though his parents, Jane and Kevin S. Clark Sr., say they worried
about his safety, they supported his decision to visit the Keene Army
When his son signed up, he was told by an Army recruiter that he
would be eligible for a $400-a-month bonus for combat-unit
assignment, Clark's father said.
"The recruiter said he didn't qualify for the $20,000 bonus for
troops deploying to Iraq, but he did qualify for the $14,000
incentive pay (bonus) if he joined a combat unit," Clark's father
said in an interview Tuesday. "So he signed up and that was that."
Shortly after arriving at his base in Fort Stewart, Clark started to
get the runaround from officials, his father said.
"They came and said he wouldn't get (the bonus) because he wasn't
eligible, then they said he would get it, then they said there had
been a mistake and he wouldn't get it," Clark's father said. "When it
just started showing up in his monthly pay, he thought it had been
Then last spring, while Clark and his unit were preparing for a
deployment to Iraq, he got more bad news when he learned he would
have to pay back the $3,000 he'd been paid.
Julia Bobick, public affairs specialist for the U.S. Army Recruiting
Command, said she hadn't seen the specifics of Clark's enlistment,
but any promised bonuses should have appeared in his contract.
"A recruiter at the (recruiting) station could tell them about
bonuses that they are eligible for, up to $40,000, but they wouldn't
be guaranteed those until they sign the paperwork," Bobick said.
"It's based on the individual circumstances of each recruit."
Bobick said she isn't aware of any circumstances where a soldier
would lose a bonus written into his or her contract, unless it was
conditional for example, a recruit offered bonus pay for joining an
Army Ranger unit who later did not qualify for Ranger training.
Clark's father said his major concern is how his son would deal with
the news while he was getting ready to go to war.
"That's why I started bringing it up," Clark's father said. "Here
they were, sending my son to war, and he should have his mind on what
was ahead of him, not feeling like he was cheated out of the money he
During the 15 months he spent in Iraq, Clark was being paid the
standard $225 a month deployment bonus, but $248 a month was being
taken out of his paycheck to repay the Army's mistake, his father said.
After hearing Hodes discussing veterans and military issues on a
local talk-radio program, Kevin Clark contacted the congressman about
his son's problem.
"This could be an Army-wide problem," Clark's father said. "I know my
son has talked to guys that have had the same thing happen to them.
The Army seemed to do a bait-and-switch and I think that getting it
out there, maybe it'll help out the next guy when they go in to know
that they should be very careful about what they are told by recruiters."
Hodes met with Clark's parents last year and then with Clark after he
returned from his deployment last month.
Mark Bergman, a spokesman for Hodes, said Clark's circumstance is the
only one like it the congressman is aware of.
Bergman said after Hodes contacted the Department of Defense about
the matter earlier this year, he received an inadequate response,
sparking his decision to send a letter to U.S. Secretary of Defense
Robert M. Gates.
Kevin Clark Sr. said that while his son has been discouraged by
what's happened, he has handled it with maturity.
"The day I realized I had the most respect for my son was in
November, when he came home for 18 days for break," he said. "When he
got back on that plane and went back to Iraq, knowing what was laying
ahead of him and knowing about the money thing that was going on back
here I don't know if I would have done the same."
Clark has decided not to re-enlist when his contract ends late this
year, according to his father.
He hopes instead to return to college and take advantage of his
military educational benefits, his mother said.