Navajo Nation leaders are demanding answers following the death of two Navajo US Army soldiers stationed at Fort Hood.
Army Specialist Miguel Yazzie, 33, died on July 2 and Private Carlton Chee, 25, died September 2, making them the 27th and 28th deaths at the notorious Army base in Killeen, Texas, this year.
Yazzie, of Window Rock, Arizona, was hospitalized for a medical condition the day before he died, while Chee, of Pine Hill, New Mexico, collapsed during a training exercise on August 28 and died five days later, the Navajo Times reported.
Army Specialist Miguel Yazzie, 33 (left), died on July 2 and Private Carlton Chee, 25 (right), died September 2, making them the 27th and 28th deaths at Texas’ Fort Hood
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez told Fox 10 Phoenix that the call for a formal investigation came because ‘We wanted to get answers. The family members felt like the leadership in the Fort Hood Army Base in Fort Hood, Texas wasn’t giving them the information that they desired.’
He added that ‘There are some questions being asked by family members who have lost loved ones. So I’m hoping we can all get answers for all the families that have questions and help them with some closure and of course some answers to what the have seen as very hush hush from the base.’
Nez had previously said that the families of the two soldiers suspected that foul play might’ve been involved in 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,’ Nez said in a statement obtained by the Navajo Times.
‘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.’
Miguel Yazzie’s father, Michael Yazzie, said that he believes negligent Army behavior contributed to his son’s death.
Yazzie’s (right) father questioned whether Army negligence played a part in his son’s death
Chee (pictured) was believed to have been in ‘great physical shape’ prior to his collapse
Chee (pictured) died five days after he collapsed during a training exercise. Yazzie died the day after he was hospitalized for a medical condition
Navajo Nation leaders are demanding formal investigations into the two soldiers’ deaths, which occurred while they were stationed at Fort Hood (pictured)
‘How come they took him to an off-base hospital?’ Michael said. ‘They have a really nice facility on-base. Why didn’t they just take him there?’
He also noted that it other soldiers had led him to believe that Miguel had been targeted by those higher up in the command than he was.
Michael did not give any examples, but noted that ‘There were some prior incidents’ and that his son had been ‘denied certain things that he needed.’
Nez, meanwhile, said of Chee’s death: ‘This is just heartbreaking for the family to know that someone that we all believe was in great physical shape collapsed during an exercise and a few days later, dies under the oversight of the federal government.’
A GoFundMe established in Chee’s name indicates that he joined the military in February and had a fiancee and a two-year-old and three-week-old son. He was also a lifetime member of the Ramah Navajo community.
Navajo Nation Speaker of the Council Seth Damon said in a release that he had spoken with new acting senior commander of Fort Hood. Maj. Gen. John B. Richardson IV, who assured him that investigations would be conducted into the two soldiers’ deaths.
Navajo Nation Vice President Myron Lizer said in a statement that they want the investigation into the two deaths because the council is also concerned about ‘the many Navajo men and women who are serving in every branch of the military around the world.
‘As you know, the Navajo people have a long and proud history of serving in the Armed Forces at a higher per capita rate than any other demographic in the United States.
‘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,’ he said.
Native American ‘code talkers’ – including Navajo speakers – played a major role in assisting the Armed Forces during World War Two, serving in the Pacific, North African and European theaters, transmitting hard to crack, secret tactical messages in code based on their native languages.
Last week, Congress announced that it will launch an investigation into sexual assault, disappearances and deaths at Fort Hood, and examine the base leadership’s response to those incidents.
Fort Hood made headlines after the April disappearance of Army Specialist Vanessa Guillen, 20, who was allegedly killed by fellow soldier, Specialist Aaron Robinson, who later committed suicide before being taking into custody after her remains were found.