The Navajo Nation has joined calls for a public accounting of the soldier deaths at Fort Hood after one of its members became the 28th soldier from the central Texas army base to die this year.
U.S. Army Private Carlton L. Chee, 25, of Pine Hill, New Mexico, had collapsed during a training exercise on Aug. 28 and died two days later at Baylor Scott and White hospital in Temple, Texas, with his family by his side, Army officials told the Associated Press.
“Our hearts are heavy today with the news of Private Carlton Chee’s passing,” said Navajo Nation Council Delegate Jamie Henio (Alamo, Ramah, Tohajiilee) in a statement Saturday. “Our young Navajos continue to serve at the highest rates per capita in the country, and when we lose just one of our honorable warriors, the entire Nation feels that pain.”
Fort Hood soldier, 25, dies after collapsing during training exercise
Army officials have said Chee’s death is being investigated and that an autopsy would be performed by the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences in Dallas.
The base is also conducting more than one investigation into the deaths this year — which range from accidents to suicide to murder — and last week replaced the commander, Maj. Gen. Scott Efflandt, who was initially slated to take over the 1st Armored Division at Fort Bliss. He is now being investigated instead.
Fort Hood commander removed from post, won’t head Fort Bliss, as army launches investigation after string of tragedies
Among the deaths that will be investigated is that of Spc. Vanessa Guillen, 20, a soldier who went missing in April after complaining of sexual abuse and harassment and was found murdered and dismembered in July. A new investigation has been opened into her death as well.
Maj. Gen. John B. Richardson IV took over as deputy commanding general for operations of III Corps and acting senior commander of Fort Hood last Wednesday.
Just two weeks before Chee’s death, 36-year-old Sgt. Bradley Moore of the Texas Army National Guard died during a training exercise.
National Guard soldier dies during training exercise at Fort Hood
“We are deeply disturbed by the string of deaths at Fort Hood, and if there is any malfeasance or negligence involved, the Navajo Nation calls on our national leaders to pursue every available avenue to protect the lives of our Navajo warriors and those serving in the U.S. Armed Forces,” said Speaker Seth Damon (Baahaali, Chilchiltah, Manuelito, Red Rock, Rock Springs, Tsayatoh) in the Nation’s statement. “Our young Navajo warriors who choose to continue the valorous legacy shared by our Navajo Code Talkers deserve the greatest assurances from our military leaders that their service is not in vain.”
The Navajo Code Talkers helped defeat the Japanese in World War II by converting their language into special code for secret military communications, according to the National Museum of the American Indian.
The strong warrior tradition has carried over millennia into the present, and today Natives serve in the military at a higher rate per capita than any other demographic, as the Military Times reported last year.
With News Wire Services
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