Posts Tagged ‘Afghanistan war’

We are very late in catching up with this story, but think it’s important to run. It’s from the Navajo Times, and it’s about Army Spc. Christopher Moon, who gave up a full college scholarship and a promising career in professional baseball to serve his country.

Earlier this month, he died after being wounded by an improvised explosive device while on patrol in the Arghandab River Valley in Afghanistan.

Spc. Christopher Moon (Courtesy photo to Navajo Times)

Spc. Christopher Moon (Courtesy photo to Navajo Times)

As the Times’ Jan-Mikael Patterson reports:

    He is the 12th Navajo Nation soldier killed in the Middle East since the U.S. was attacked by Islamic extremists Sept. 11, 2001, according to information provided by President Joe Shirley Jr.’s office.

    Moon was an infantryman with the 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division.

His mother, Marsha Moon, tells the Times that her son “always had the desire to be in the military, as far back as mid-school. We saw his talents in baseball and we tried to get him to go in that direction. But what he wanted to do was join the military.”

He was a star baseball player at Tucson High Magnet School, where he graduated in 2007. That made him a guaranteed starter his freshman year at the University of Arizona. The prep baseball honor will bear his name from now on, the Times reports.

And, writes Patterson, Moon also had earned a full scholarship to the UA, and he was drafted by the Atlanta Braves.

Our hearts go out to his family and friends.

Gwen Florio

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Veterans Cemetery on the Navajo Nation in Window Rock, Ariz. (SanSilver photo)

Veterans Cemetery on the Navajo Nation in Window Rock, Ariz. (SanSilver photo)

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National Public Radio’s reporting from Iraq and Afghanistan has been justifiably honored. But it came under scrutiny recently with reports on the death in Afghanistan of a 23-year-old Navajo Marine from Rock Point, Ariz.

NPR’s Kabul correspondent Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, who was embedded with the Marines India Company 3rd Battalion, 6th Regiment, included in her report details of how the young man died.

The piece provoked comment from listeners who found it both moving, and intrusive, according to this NPR review of the matter.

Although the Marine’s family knew of his death, they didn’t know NPR was planning the piece.

“The only complaint we, as the family, have is that we were not notified about the broadcast,” his sister-in-law tells NPR. “It was quite a shock when we actually heard the story then heard the moment he was killed from the audio. It was too graphic for us to hear.”

She also says she wishes the NPR had not used his name, out of respect for Navajo culture.

As she tells NPR:

    “In our Navajo tradition, once we lay him to rest we cannot talk about his passing anymore,” said his sister-in-law on March 4. “Culturally his spirit will not be at ease if we keep hearing about his death…It is hard for all of us to grieve the loss of [name withheld] with all this media attention it is getting and we know that this is not what he would have wanted. He was not the type of person to have wanted all this attention.”

    This story is fraught with ethical issues. Should NPR have aired the moment of death? Should his name be aired? Should NPR have notified the family before the piece aired?

NPR’s review of the matter notes there are no easy answers. This blog has printed the names of Navajo soldiers and Marines killed in combat, usually linking to the stories in the Navajo Times mentioning those names. In a story involving this particular Marine, the Times noted that the family asked that his name not be made public. Thoughts?

Gwen Florio

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Peter Auld, one of the organizers of Save Chief Cliff Organization, sits recently on top of Chief Cliff, where his father first took him as a boy. “It is part of our history,” Auld said of the mountain and surrounding area. (Tom Bauer/Missoulian)

Peter Auld, one of the organizers of Save Chief Cliff Organization, sits recently on top of Chief Cliff, where his father first took him as a boy. “It is part of our history,” Auld said of the mountain and surrounding area. (Tom Bauer/Missoulian)

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Group works to preserve sacred Chief Cliff site
A group of young people, mostly from Salish Kootenai College, is worried that a quarry near Chief Cliff, a site revered by Kootenai people on the Flathead Indian Reservation in Montana, will damage the cliff. They’d like a conservation easement, but tracking down the quarry’s owner is proving tough. Read Missoulian reporter Vince Devlin’s account, here, and watch Tom Bauer’s video, here.

Cherokee quarterback willing to play for Redskins
University of Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford will likely go to the Washington Redskins come draft time, and some commentators are making a big deal over his Cherokee heritage, and the team’s name, considered offensive by many. Bradford is the first Native American to win the Heisman Trophy. Read more on, here.

Robert Redford to join New Mexico’s Jobs Through Film for Natives
The New Mexico Independent reports here that actor and filmmaker Robert Redford is starting a program in northern New Mexico called “Milagro at Los Luceros.” The idea is to create training programs with a focus on Native American and Hispanic filmmaking.

Afghanistan offensive claims life of Navajo Marine

Lance Cpl. Alejandro Yazzie, 23, who is Dine from Rock Point, was killed Feb. 16 in Marjah, Afghanistan, where he was a combat engineer assigned to the 1st Combat Engineer Battalion, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, according to the Navajo Times, here. He was the first in his battalion to die in the offensive, and the 11th Navajo soldier or Marine to die overseas since Sept. 11, 2001.

Minnesota Sen. Al Franken seeks more money for tribal schools
“The reality is that Indian schools, and Indian issues in general, just have not been a federal funding priority,” U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., told the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. While the Obama administration has done more than previous administrations, “we have to do much, much more,” the Bemidji (Minn.) Pioneer reports writes here. In Minnesota alone, 64 Indian schools await funding, he says.

Gwen Florio

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Willard Oliver, 88, spoke before his death of his pride in being a code talker. (AP photo)

Willard Oliver, 88, spoke before his death of his pride in being a code talker. (AP photo)

The Navajo Nation is commemorating two members of the military this week, one whose long life was richly lived, the other whose life was cut far too short in Afghanistan, a tragedy compounded by the death in Iraq of his brother.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth W. Westbrook, 41, died Oct. 7 at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C., of wounds suffered last month when insurgents attacked his unit in the Ganjgal Valley of Afghanistan, the Navajo Times reports here. It’s the second loss for the Westbrook family – Kenneth’s brother, Army Sgt. Marshall A. Westbrook, 43, of Farmington, was killed Oct. 1, 2005, in Iraq.

“When his brother enlisted, there was definitely nothing stopping Ken from enlisting as well,” says a friend, Brian Victor. “If not for his brother and his dad then it was because he was instilled with the belief of patriotism

As their brother, David, says, “When Navajos are called to war, they go as warriors.”

That was certainly the case for Willard Varnell Oliver, 88, of Lukachukai, Ariz., esteemed as one of the famous Code Talkers during World War II. Oliver died Wednesday and will be buried tomorrow.
On Nov. 24, 2001, Willard Oliver was awarded the Congressional Silver Medal in Window Rock, says this Navajo Times account of his passing.

“I did not realize that until the code talkers were recognized that all the victories back during the war came about because of our Diné language,” he said.

“Sometimes I think about it,” he said. “Why did the government want to use our language when throughout BIA school we would get our mouth washed out with soap when they caught us speaking Navajo?

“I am proud to be a code talker,” he said. “And I know we counted for something great, and that we fought to maintain our freedom and for our sacred land.”

Gwen Florio

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