Published April 20, 2016
WINDOW ROCK, ARIZONA—Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye and Vice President Jonathan Nez administered the oath of office for members of the newly established Navajo Nation Veterans Advisory Council April 18.
The appointment of members to the Navajo Nation Veterans Advisory Council was the next step after enactment of the Navajo Nation Veterans Act Feb. 13. Establishing the plan of operations and budget for the Navajo Nation Veterans Administration is next,as we continue to transition a forty-one year old department into a twenty-first century administration said Jamescita Peshlakai. Peshlakai, a Persian Gulf War Veteran, was appointed by the Begaye-Nez Administration as the Veterans Liaison for the Office of the President and Vice President in early July.
President Begaye said, “This is a historical moment for the Navajo Nation and all of Indian Country. (The Begaye-Nez administration) continues to keep our promise to Navajo veterans.”
He noted that the NNVAC is going to have two major tasks to address for veterans – housing and health care.
“Not only physical health, but mental health. We need to get really strong professionals and staff here on the Nation, rather than farming out these services around the country,” President Begaye said.
Nine new members of the advisory council are comprised of five agency commanders and three female veterans. The new members are Darryl Ahasteen, Gilbert Chee, Anderson Tullie, Hubert Smith, Paul George, Tyann Nakai, Regina Roanhorse, Nancy Martin and Nelda Achee.
Vice President Nez said people consistently ask what the difference was for the Begaye-Nez administration to successfully pass the Navajo Nation Veterans Act with the support of the Navajo Nation Council.
“The difference is that the veterans were involved. You were all at the table, having a dialogue on how you wanted to shape your Veterans Act. Before, it got created in Window Rock and they tried to push it on you guys, that’s why it didn’t work,” he said.
President Begaye spoke of the need to assist the invisible veterans that are unheard from by the Navajo Nation.
“Some are out in the street. They’re out there, in need of help. The unseen veterans, they’re ones we need to spend more time helping,” he said. “They are the most neglected of all the veterans that are out there.”
These homeless veterans struggle with the challenges of homelessness, post-traumatic stress disorder, unemployment and other issues.
In the coming months, the Office of the President and Vice President, along with the NNVAC, will create the plan of operation, policies and procedures, for the veterans’ administration and the advisory council.
To ensure transparency and public input, OPVP will implement a public outreach campaign in a similar fashion to what was executed for the Navajo Nation Veterans Act public hearings.
All divisions, departments, programs, and enterprises will be called upon to assist with the establishment of the new veterans administration. A preliminary organizational structure, budget, personnel listing, and operational plan are going to be completed by the summer session of the tribal council.
By October 2016, the NNVA and NNVAC will be transitioning toward presenting the Navajo Nation Council with a proposed budget for the first year.
President Begaye spoke of the tremendous responsibilities bestowed upon the advisory council, such as veterans housing, establishing a veterans hospital on the Navajo Nation, creation of a national veterans cemetery, and development of a recognized Navajo Nation Veterans Museum.
Veterans are one of the four pillars in the Begaye-Nez administration. President Begaye and Vice President Nez stand committed to assisting tribal members who took the oath and served in the U.S. Armed Forces.
“We are thankful and forever indebted to our Navajo veterans. By installing our new advisory council members, we continue to show our Navajo Nation veterans that we are committed to them,” said President Begaye.
Vice President Nez said, “We need to applaud President Begaye because appointing a veterans liaison within OPVP and enactment of the Navajo Nation Veterans Act are two campaign promises we made. I stand proudly with him to say these promises can now be checked off as implemented.”
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