Published November 28, 2016
WINDOW ROCK – Navajo veterans who marched on the Office of the President and Vice President Friday got no direct audience with President Russell Begaye, but they did get some of what they wanted.
“We’re here for one purpose: to get the president’s attention,” said Chinle Veterans Organization Vice Commander Willis Becenti.
By the end of the day, they may not have had the direct attention of him in person, but they certainly had the attention of his office and staff.
Facing the office and gathered officials, including interim NNVA Director Jamescita Peshlakai, with the Window Rock Navajo Tribal Park and Veteran’s Memorial in the background, Becenti criticized the rate at which housing is being built for veterans.The group gathered with a horse escort at the Navajo Nation Museum before they headed up to the OPVP. They hoped to get answers on issues including housing, housing construction, the implementation of the Navajo Nation Veterans Administration under the Veterans Act passed in January, services such as processing checks, and staffing issues at offices serving veterans.
“We have a building department that doesn’t move,” he said.
Army veteran Olin Kieyoomia spoke on behalf of veterans’ families, spouses and widows as the rally began.
“We must not forget our spouses and our widows,” Kieyoomia said. “Those are the people out there too, who suffer every time they submit an application or paperwork.”
Former Council Delegate Katherine Benally, a wife and mother in a family of veterans, spoke directly to Peshlakai.
“We are tired of lip service,” she said, as she gestured to the assembled veterans. “These people didn’t pay lip service. They put their lives on the line.”
She pointed at Peshlakai.
“We want a fighter,” she said. “If you can’t fight for us, get out of our way.”
Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the Navajo Times. Used with permission. All rights reserved.