Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye and Vice President Jonathan Nez recognized and paid tribute to the families of fallen soldiers on Sunday, at a ceremony for Gold Star Mother’s and Family’s Day.
“Our warriors will never be forgotten,” President Begaye said. “We honor their memory and the countless sacrifices made by our Gold Star Mothers and Families. Thank you for all that you have done and for your presence here today.”
Vice President Nez said, “It is important not only to honor our soldiers but also our parents. The respect begins at home and continues even after loved ones have passed.”
“Whether it’s mom or a family member, you served right alongside our warriors,” Vice President Nez said. “We must never forget the sacrifices they and their families made.”
The ceremony was held at the Window Rock Veteran’s Memorial Park and is the second recognition event on the Navajo Nation. Before, Gold Star Mothers and Families would have to travel off the Navajo Nation to participate in events to honor their children who lost their lives in military service.
Gold Star Mother Jeanette Yazzie said, “Events like this, for myself, my husband and my family, are comforting. When we all come together, we console each other and we really enjoy being with one another.”
Yazzie, along with other mothers, reached out to the Navajo-Hopi Honor Riders and asked for assistance to bring this event to the Navajo Nation.
The Navajo-Hopi Honor Riders organization was formed after the death of Lori Piestewa, the first Native American woman to die in combat on foreign soil during Operation Iraqi Freedom. The group supports soldiers by welcoming veterans home, assisting with funeral escorts and organizing the annual Navajo-Hopi Honor Run to visit veterans and their families, which had its 15th anniversary earlier this year in May.
“We asked why can’t we hold one [a Gold Star Mother’s and Family’s ceremony] and honor our heroes here at the Navajo Nation’s capital?” said Michelle West, secretary for Navajo-Hopi Honor Riders. “So we decided to collaborate with the Office of the President and Vice President and see what we could do.”
The Office of the President and Vice President and the Navajo Nation Veterans Administration teamed up with the Navajo-Hopi Honor Riders to bring Gold Star Mother’s and Family’s Day to the Navajo Nation.
“It is important to have these events in Indian Country,” said Jamescita M. Peshlakai, AZ State Senator and executive staff assistant at the Office of the President and Vice President. “We have to observe the sacrifice and honor the lives of these young men and women that passed on in service to this country, and of their families.”
On Sept. 20, President Begaye and Vice President Nez issued a proclamation and designated Sept. 24 as Gold Star Mother’s and Family’s Day in conjunction with the federal holiday, which recognizes the last Sunday of September as Gold Star Mother’s and Family’s Day.
President Begaye said that while this is the second year, the Navajo Nation will continue to hold these ceremonies and publicly express gratitude to our fallen soldiers, veterans and their families.