Citizens Claim Pentagon Forced Them to Shut Down Charity for Deployed Soldiers
July 31, 2013
This column by ACRU Senior Legal Analyst Ken Klukowski was published July 28, 2013 on Breitbart.com.
A Virginia woman has shut down a website for a charity operation meant to help American troops deployed in Afghanistan in response to what she describes as harassment and intimidation from U.S. military leadership.
Breitbart News‘s Liz Sheld reported in May on how Virginia woman RoxAnne Christley organized an effort to help provide hometown comforts for troops in Afghanistan. Christley heard that an Afghanistan hospital unit lacked clean bed sheets, with some supplies bloodstained or torn. Thus, she organized a charitable effort to send care packages including fresh, clean sheets to help the troops. Fox News broadcast a glowing story about her efforts, called Operation Bedsheet.
McClatchy news service reports that the “military bristle[d]” at this situation, and eventually a military officer contacted a civilian webmaster, demanding that she shut down the website for Operation Bedsheet immediately.
A source who spoke with Breitbart News explained that this civilian woman felt intimidated by the demand and pulled the plug on the website. Christley commented to McClatchy, “The page got taken down because the military harassed the crap out of my webmaster.”
Before directly addressing Christley’s associates, military brass used media to counter the embarrassing claims laid out by Christley. They told McClatchy news service that every unit “had a proper supply of bed sheets.” One colonel assured reporters, “I can tell you with full confidence we do not have a shortage of clean hospital bed linen.”
The officer also assured the media that whenever soldiers in the Afghanistan war zone need any supplies, they do not hesitate to alert their superiors, who promptly respond by giving those field units everything they need.
McClatchy titled the story, “Inspired by prayer, Virginia politician starts errant bedsheet drive for troops in Afghanistan.” Christley has never served as a politician. She ran for her county board of supervisors but lost by five votes, and she is currently a private citizen.
Several military commanders contradicted the official response to Christley, telling Breitbart News that shortages are commonplace in a war zone, and intermediate officers regularly do not report bad news unless they have to, because no one wants to appear to come up short in front of a superior officer.
Breitbart News also spoke with Lt. Col. Eric Egland, a military reservist who, as a civilian, also runs a separate charity for our men and women in uniform overseas called Troops Need You. “As someone who has served on the ground in those war zones, I would see mission-critical needs every day,” Egland asserted. “That’s why I started my own charity when I was stateside–that I’ve run as a volunteer for over six years now–to try to help as best I can.”
Egland found Christley’s story regarding the bed sheets credible. He therefore stepped forward with his own charity to help her.
“At Troops Need You, we enable the American people to directly support the troops in their mission,” Egland said. “That’s what makes it unique. And obviously RoxAnne Christley is motivated by that same desire.
“Her effort is a perfect example of American citizens here at home supporting the troops in combat, which is why I was thrilled to partner with Roxanne to handle the logistics for her, and in so doing triple the size of her shipments to the troops.”
This allegation that the Obama-Hagel Defense Department would harass and intimidate law-abiding Americans is not without precedent. When Breitbart News broke the story about the Pentagon holding meetings with an anti-Christian extremist pushing to eradicate references to religious faith in the military–a story with troubling developments as recent as just last week–a Pentagon public affairs officer sent this author the stern message that the story must be retracted.