FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — An Army veteran who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom was sworn in as the newest member of the Navajo Nation Veterans Advisory Council during a Jan. 4 ceremony.
President Russell Begaye administered the oath of office for Tiarra DiNardo, of Many Farms, Arizona, during the advisory council’s January meeting held at Twin Arrows Navajo Casino and Resort.
DiNardo completes the 10-member council, which comprises one male and one female veteran from each of the five agencies and is tasked with directly advising the Office of the President and Vice President on veterans’ issues.
“I’m excited to work with veterans and to be working with this council,” DiNardo said. “I think of it as an honor because there’s a lot to learn from our veterans.”
DiNardo swore to “zealously represent with honor and respect all our Diné warriors, past, present and future.”
She will represent the Central Agency on the council.
During the meeting, Begaye called on the advisory council to identify veterans in their agencies who need help. He also pledged to build 200 homes for veterans, as advised by the council and agreed to give special priority to female veterans, including single mothers.
“Most veterans will not come out waving a flag and saying, ‘I’m a veteran; I need help,’” he said. “Many of the veterans are homeless or live in substandard homes. We need to identify them and get them into homes. That’s my number one priority.”
Begaye fielded questions from council members, who asked about employment opportunities, mental and behavioral health issues and funeral expenses for veterans. He called for assistance from the federal government as well as state and local resources.
“Our veterans serve under the U.S. flag, not the Navajo flag,” he said. “When they serve under the U.S. flag, we expect the U.S. to take care of them. However, the Navajo Nation, being the only tribe with a special trust fund, provides assistance to veterans as well. I will work to ensure the funds are being received without too much bureaucracy.”
Begaye also addressed the lack of a permanent director for the Navajo Nation Veterans Administration. He continues to advertise the position and review applicants.
“We need the right person for this job,” he said. “We need someone with heart, with passion for this work. We need someone who can be a pit bull and go after federal money and state money, but also Navajo Nation money. We need someone who is willing to go at this, to connect with people, get these homes built and take care of our veterans.”