Roby wants answers from VAPublished 8:42am Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Jordan McLendon didn’t ask for the media attention. She just wanted to honor her grandfather’s memory on one of the most recognized Christian holidays around the world.
Now because of the Wetumpka woman’s kind-heartedness, local Congresswoman Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) is demanding answers from the heads of the Veterans Administration.
McLendon, 20, prepared more than 100 goodie bags and the same amount of Christmas cards to personally deliver to the patients of the VA Hospital in Montgomery just before Christmas Day.
McLendon called ahead to make sure a complete stranger was allowed to bring such tidings to help brighten the day of some select veterans.
Only much of what she had prepared was rejected because of bureaucratic red tape and guidelines.
“I was told I could not pass out anything that had anything to do with Christmas,” McLendon said. “The person was very nice to me and even apologized, but he was just doing what the guidelines from Washington D.C. called for.”
After McLendon’s story came out in the Montgomery media, it soon went viral on social media and caught Roby’s attention.
“She contacted me and I told her the whole story,” McLendon said. “She was really upset and promised to get to the bottom line of it.”
In a letter to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shineski, Roby called for the rule –written or unwritten – to change.
“In this increasingly self-consumed world, a young woman selflessly tried to bring joy and comfort to those who have served our country, many of whom don’t have surviving family members to visit them. I imagine these veterans would be sickened to see the very right to religious liberty they fought to defend diluted and denied by bureaucratic rules,” Roby wrote.
McLendon’s family has a long-standing tradition of serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.
Her grandfather received the Purple Heart after his service in the Vietnam conflict and later died due to kidney failure.
Her father served in the military as did her uncles and stepfather.
“The main thing behind me making these bags was to honor my grandfather and knowing some of the veterans at that hospital don’t have anyone to come to visit them, I just wanted to do something special,” she said.
McLendon said she has regularly done other special things for patients at the Veterans Hospital, but this was the first time she had made bags and cards for Christmas.
“My concern is that such a senseless policy exists to begin with, or in the case that no such policy expressly prohibits mentioning Christmas in cases like this, that the culture of bureaucracy at the VA would encourage facility administrators to err on the side of suppressing religious expression and discouraging acts of kindness toward veterans,” Roby wrote.
McLendon said what seems to be the sticking point with the VA is that it does not want to openly leave out or offend someone of another religious faith.
“I get that, but those veterans could say yes or no, instead of having someone answer for themselves,” she added.
Roby asked Shineski for a response to her letter by today.