Gregg Whitehat, Sr., returns home after 28 years of service to the Navajo Nation. The Navajo Mountain Chapter House hosted the retirement celebration of Whitehat on Sunday, September 3. Chapter officials, family members, friends and fellow law enforcement officers gathered to thank the Navajo Police Officer for his service to the Navajo Nation, and to welcome him home.
“It’s a great feeling to know that you’re appreciated,” Whitehat said as he stood to thank everyone who had come out to honor and gift him. “People ask me, ‘What are you going to do now?’ I will be taking it easy for awhile, get chores done around the place, then I may consider some of the job offers I’ve received.” Whether or not he takes another job, Whitehat has more than earned his chance to kick back from a job which took him from home and family
A fellow chapter member, Jimmie Dougi, worked closely with Whitehat in his duties as prosecutor of the Tuba City district. He was honored to serve as master of ceremonies for the joyous celebration, he said, and thanked Whitehat and his family for standing by the officer through the 28 years of his career. “It’s hard on a family,” he said, referring to the long hours and danger presented by the job.
Ronald Brown, public information officer at Tuba City, presented more than just the beautiful plaque from the Tuba City Police Department, the dispatchers and detention officers. He also wove a touching testimony to the man he had looked up to in his own career. “I’ve known Gregg since 1980. I was a kid on the force and Gregg had to hold my reins in and walk me through. I know he’s made an impression on me and a lot of other officers. He’s made a lot of sacrifices.”
Brown learned other lessons from Whitehat. “Every moment you spend with people, you really make a difference. Gregg has always gone beyond his job description. He didn’t just do his job, he had a passion for it.”
Apparently Tuba City feels the same way. Owners of local businesses went together and bought a beautiful Pendleton robe to present to Whitehat, which Brown also presented.
Herb Yazzie, the former Attorney General of the Navajo Nation, thanked Whitehat, his wife Donna and the Whitehat family for inviting him to speak on behalf of his long-time friend.
“Gregg and I grew up together in the same school in Flagstaff. We thought we were invincible. Gregg used to hang out with this group of boys who played music.” Where he and Whitehat had listened to music from the Country Defenders and Valley Boys and small children, in Flagstaff they turned to the Rolling Stones and the Beatles.
“Life is very interesting,” he laughed. “All these years repeating themselves. Now he [Whitehat] has a son who is a musician and one who followed his tracks into the military. I believe he and his family have improved life as Navajos—taken it higher [as an example] of how to live life.”
There is no greater service, Yazzie explained, than service to one’s community. “It’s not a matter of title or money, but of respect. I know Gregg earned that.”
From two young dormitory students to public servants to the Navajo Nation, Yazzie and Whitehat joined together for yet another life milestone. “I believe the Police Department is the heart and soul of the Navajo Nation,” Yazzie said. “It is not there just to keep peace, but to give comfort to the people who see us at work. Regular employees are the engine that makes the government work,” he continued. “Unfortunately, they are often forgotten. It’s not the elected workers who keep the government running, but the regular employees.”
Council Delegate Willie Greyeyes stood to present Whitehat with another Pendleton robe and spoke of Whitehat’s service to the people. “Leadership is really needed here. We are in the most remote area. Teaching is needed here, not only in Public Safety, but in other areas of development.” These qualities are represented in Whitehat, he explained. “We are very honored to have him and his family here.”
Whitehat’s son, George Craig, offered a moving testimony, thanking his father for supporting the family, yet obviously saddened at the sacrifices suffered by the family. “When I was growing up, you weren’t always there, but you always put us first. I want to thank you, Dad.” Explaining that the song he was to play was his father’s favorite request, the young man sat at his cello and demonstrated his special gift to the world. The haunting strains of the instrument filled not only the chapter house, but the hearts of all who attended.
Gregg Whitehat, Jr., thanked everyone for coming out and making this an event. His eyes moist with tears, Gregg Jr. explained how hard it was for him as a child to know that his father was leaving home to do a dangerous job—and having lost an uncle, Gregg’s brother, in the line of duty on May 10, 1979, he and his brothers and cousins knew the reality of that fact.
“Every time he left, I said a prayer for him. When he came back, I’d say thank you. I’m very happy for you Dad. You are an icon for reliability, strength and wisdom.”
Other family members spoke out for Whitehat, including son Gordon, his sister Nita Raymond, sister-in-law Lucille Tsosie as well as nephews and niece.
Showered with gifts, the one that produced laughter was the gift of a fishing pole and tackle box. “If you want to find Sgt. Whitehat now,” quipped Dougi, “You’ll have to go to Lake Powell!” And as for those other job offers, Whitehat might have to arm wrestle his wife to get away. She made it clear she was happy to finally have him to herself.
Whitehat summed up 28 years of hard service to his people very simply. “I am proud to have served the Navajo Nation.”