President Shirley issues Veterans Day message

WINDOW ROCK - Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. issued the following Veterans Day Message:

On November 11, 1918, at 11 a.m., World War I came to an end. From then on, we've observed Armistice Day on this date. In 1954, Congress changed Armistice Day to Veterans Day to honor all veterans.

Since World War I, hundreds of our Navajo men and women have enlisted without hesitation to serve our country and defend our Navajo way of life. Whether in wartime or peacetime, they left the comfort of their homes, their families and their relatives to join the Marines, Army, Navy Air Force and other branches of the U.S. Armed Forces. They served honorably stateside and on foreign soil to ensure that we continue to live free-to exercise our freedom of religion, freedom of speech and freedom to go about our daily lives knowing that we are protected.

Inscribed at the Navajo Nation Veterans Memorial Park are 147 names of Navajo soldiers who were killed-in-action and are missing-in-action. Those who have come home, come home as heroes. We know hundreds more have passed on once their service was done. Among our veteran population are former prisoners of war, the famous Navajo Code Talkers and many women veterans.

The Navajo Nation has lost eight of our soldiers in the war on terror. Many of our young men and women continue to serve in Afghanistan, Iraq and other parts of the world. Just recently, we lost the highest-ranking woman Navajo non-commissioned officer, U.S. Army Master Sergeant Marilene Jean Begay of Steamboat. She was stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas, and trained other young men and women to become soldiers.

We owe all of our brave and courageous warriors a debt of gratitude that we can never fully repay.

On Veterans Day, I encourage each of us to thank a veteran, to recognize them and to honor them through appropriate ceremonies and to pray for their well being. Let us not forget those who are in health care facilities and those who are homeless. Let us visit them and say thank you.

To our Veterans, I wish you a Happy Veterans Day 2007. Be proud of who you are, and for your service, sacrifices and accomplishments. We thank you for protecting our freedom that you have won by putting your lives on the line. I urge all veterans to show their pride and all of our people never to forget our veterans.

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