Still Unprotected: Bakes Sales Raise Money for Body Armor in Iraq

At about the same time that Sean was deployed, a Pentagon study discovered approximately 80 percent of Marines killed by wounds to the torso could have survived with more comprehensive body armor, particularly for the sides and shoulders.  

As can be imagined, Tammara was frantically trying to get armor on her husband. His chest and back plates were exchanged for the correct size but it wasn’t until the end of January, after Tammara had initiated a congressional investigation, that Sean was issued side/deltoid armor.   

Between December and the end of January when he finally received the armor, Sean had traveled by land from Kuwait into Iraq perched on top of a Humvee as a 50-Calliber gunner. His final destination was Camp Victory, on the outskirts of Baghdad.  

It was during these nerve-racking days that Tammara and friend, Charlie Anderson an Iraq War Veteran, developed an idea to help other soldiers get themselves the equipment they need to stay alive. In early February 2006, they launched the official Bake Sales for Body Armor campaign.  

According to Anderson the program is relatively simple. A soldier or the soldier’s family visits the website, and registers the soldier. The request requires the soldier’s name, APO/FPO address, a valid email as well as the specific request for armor or equipment. The soldier is then contacted to verify that they are actually in a unit. Bake sales are held, funds collected and the armor is ordered from, which then ships the armor free of charge to the soldiers address.  

“We chose bulletproofme because they were the recommended source for ballistic inserts during the armor shortage and appear to be the source used to determine reimbursement prices under the Dodd legislation,” said Anderson.  

Christopher Dodd, Senior Democratic Senator from Connecticut, initiated the 2004 legislation to reimburse soldiers for out of pocket expenses incurred from buying protective gear that wasn’t being provided to them by the Department of Defense.  

“Certainly, there should have been better preparation to see to it these young men and women would have all the protection necessary, but for a variety of reasons … they were not,” said Dodd, in a statement on the floor of the Senate.  

Anderson was one of the soldiers not provided the necessary protection. He served in the U.S. Navy as a Hospital Corpsman, from July 1996 through March 2005 and participated in the ground invasion of Iraq.  

“I was one of the many in my battalion lacking front and back inserts for my interceptor vest,” said Anderson. “It is a very scary feeling to know you have a life and death need that is not being addressed by a General somewhere in an office far from the fight.”  

The main objective of Anderson and Rosenleaf’s Bake Sales for Body Armor campaign is to bring as many soldiers home as whole as possible. According to a study by the Brookings Institution, improvised explosive devices cause more than 38 percent of all U.S. casualties in Iraq and even more crippling injuries. Comprehensive body armor is integral to a soldier’s survival and protection from such an attack, which can rip through the undercarriage and sides of a military vehicle with ease.  

So far, the Bake Sales campaign has bought 12 sets of body armor ($670 per set) and earned approximately $8618.92. Twenty-seven soldiers have registered on the site for various pieces of equipment.  

Anderson and Rosenleaf are forging ahead with their campaign despite a decree by the Pentagon against privately purchased body armor.  

“We believe to stop now is not an option. We have had five soldiers ask for armor since the order went into place. They ask, we ship,” said Anderson.  

According to the White House Office of Management and Budget, President Bush has increased the Department of Defense budget by 35 percent since 2001. Bush’s 2007 budget allocates $439.3 billion for DoD discretionary spending, a 7 percent increase from 2006. In addition, the Senate recently passed a $109 billion supplemental spending bill intended for costs associated with the Iraq War and the Hurricane Katrina rebuilding efforts.  

Despite the enormity of the U.S. Military budget, troops still don’t have the equipment they need and often what they do have is in disrepair. According to an April 20, 2006 Associated Press report the Senate’s supplemental funding for Iraq would actually cut money for troops while adding money to an experimental flying vehicle called the V-22 Osprey.  

“The aircraft is popular with lawmakers, especially those from Pennsylvania and Texas, which host the manufacturing plants,” states the article.  

It’s difficult to understand why such measures are being passed when troops on the ground still don’t have all the protection they need and want.  

“Our sources tell us that the army in Iraq is scrambling to determine which units have which armor. This tells me that potentially thousands of soldiers do not have adequate armor,” said Anderson.  

In support of Anderson‘s claim is the fact that ever-larger amounts of money continue to pour into the military. The AP reported on May 11, 2006 that the House of Representatives passed a $512.9 billion spending bill for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  

“The theme of the bill this year was troop protection,” said California Republican Congressman, Rep. Duncan Hunter, to the AP reporter.  

One question that arises is – what took so long? The war has been raging for more than three years. The first priority of decision makers in the White House, Congress and the DoD should have been to provide every soldier with comprehensive protection from the beginning. Instead, reckless spending on high-tech equipment has continually superseded fundamental provisions at the expense of American taxpayers and the troops with their boots on the ground.  

Until all the troops are fully equipped, Anderson, Rosenleaf and the many volunteers that have helped to make the Bake Sales campaign successful will continue their tireless efforts to provide as much as they can to fill the gap left by the government. Rosenleaf said, “We will continue as long as troops continue to ask for it.”