Tribe: Soldier was 2nd Navajo citizen to die at base this year
Indian Country Today
Congress will launch an investigation into sexual assault, disappearances, deaths and the military leadership’s response at Fort Hood after 28 soldiers, including two Navajo men, stationed at the U.S. Army base in Texas died this year.
Navajo citizen Spc. Miguel D. Yazzie is among the Fort Hood soldiers who have died, the nation said in a statement Tuesday. The nation provided the first details that a second Navajo man had died at the troubled installation.
Pvt. Corlton L. Chee, 25, died Sept. 2 after collapsing following physical training exercises on Aug. 28. Army officials announced his death Friday.
Neither Fort Hood officials nor the Texas Department of Safety could be reached Tuesday for comment.
Two panels from the Committee on Oversight and Reform and Committee of Armed Services will jointly investigate to determine if recent deaths "may be symptomatic of underlying leadership, discipline, and morale deficiencies throughout the chain-of-command.”
Members of Congress — including two Democratic representatives from Massachusetts and California — sent a letter to Army Secretary Ryan D. McCarthy requesting documents and information on the deaths.
(Previous story: Soldier’s death leaves family asking ‘why, why, why?’)
Yazzie died on July 3 at Fort Hood, according to the Nez administration. His cause of death was not included, though the tribe's statement noted Yazzie served as an Air Defense Enhanced Early Warning System operator and was previously stationed in South Korea.
The Nez administration says the families of both soldiers suspect foul play may have contributed to their deaths.
“We spoke with the families of Pvt. Chee and Spc. Yazzie and they have many concerns and questions related to inconsistent information and details provided by military officials,” Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said.
“It is very troubling that while they are mourning the loss of their loved ones, they are not receiving adequate and timely factual information regarding the time leading up to their deaths.”
The tribe released another statement Tuesday evening, saying Navajo Nation Speaker Seth Damon had spoken with Major General John B. Richardson IV, acting senior commander of the Fort Hood Army post, via teleconference.
"The Navajo Nation has received the utmost assurance that the deaths of our two Navajo warriors will be investigated thoroughly,” Damon said.
According to the statement, Richardson acknowledged the Navajo Nation's high service rates and noted investigations will be conducted by both an independent criminal investigation division and the unit’s investigators. He said the investigation of Yazzie’s death is expected to conclude after a "thorough autopsy is completed."
According to Fort Hood officials, the 28 deaths at the base include five homicides, as well as accidents, suicides, deaths related to illness, cases still under investigation and one combat-related death.
The base drew national attention in recent months after the body of Vanessa Guillen, a 20-year-old soldier, was found dismembered. Guillen had been missing for several months after vanishing at the end of June.
“Our concern is not only for these two members of the Navajo Nation, but for the many Navajo men and women who are serving in every branch of the military around the world,” Vice President Myron Lizer said.
Lizer cited the “long and proud history” of Navajo involvement in the Armed forces, adding that Native people serve in the U.S. military at a higher per capita rate than other demographics.
“This is not only a call for a congressional inquiry, but it is a call for accountability and answers for the families that are grieving for their loved ones,” Lizer said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report