TWIN ARROWS, Ariz. - Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye and Vice President Jonathan Nez Feb. 13 signed into law the Navajo Veterans Act during a ceremonial event at the Twin Arrows Casino and Resort.
The ballroom was filled with Navajo veterans, agency commanders, members of the 23rd Navajo Nation Council and state and county officials.
"This is your act. It came from your hearts and your prayers," Begaye said to the attending veterans. "We thank you for your participation and perseverance in pushing the Veterans Act forward. The work of the agency commanders and those at the local level really made it happen."
The president noted that the Veterans Act is a platform by which the Begaye-Nez administration will move forward in enhancing veteran's services across the Nation.
Begaye listed three areas of concern that he sees as immediate priorities in assisting veterans. These priorities are housing, medical benefits and behavioral health.
"We need homes for veterans and this need will be addressed as this Act is passed," Begaye said. "We also need a Veteran's hospital right here on the Navajo Nation as our veterans spend much time and money traveling to their appointments. Many of our veterans who have returned from active duty suffer from post traumatic stress disorder. We need to help them as they have sacrificed for our freedom."
Nez said the Begaye-Nez administration committed to finding a veterans liaison that would facilitate the process of establishing the Veterans Act through collaboration with Navajo veterans. He said the administration also committed to getting the legislation passed, both of which they have done.
"We brought a great warrior woman to our staff in Jamescita Peshlakai and she has bridged the gap between the Office of the President and Vice President and the veterans," Nez said. "She has been instrumental in getting the veterans involved which has been critical in getting this legislation passed."
Peshlakai said the involvement of Navajo veterans helped shape the legislation so that it would truly benefit their needs and the services they felt were important. Peshlakai also thanked the 23rd Navajo Nation Council for their support.
"We did not get one nay vote when the legislation went to Council," she said.
Both Begaye and Nez acknowledged and recognized the attendance of Navajo Code Talker George Willie and also the Gold and Blue Star Mothers in the audience.
Begaye said that beyond all the weaponry used in World War II, it was the Navajo language that won the war.
"Our language can soothe children, it can teach, and it can be used for prayers. It's a powerful tool," he said. "Also, I appreciate the Gold and Blue Star Mothers. Your children have given their lives for the freedom of this country."
Ceremonial signings also took place in each of the five Navajo agencies.