Richard Antone, Tommy Otero, Preston Toledo and Frank Willetto are among many Diné military service veterans featured in an expansive photo exhibit permanently installed in the atrium of the Sandoval County administration building.
Others include: Andy Herrera, Ben Pat Lopez and Raymond Platero.
There are more than 1,500 photographs all together in the exhibit depicting veterans and fallen heroes from diverse communities located in Sandoval County.
Around 188 photos in the exhibit are of Diné, Pueblo, and Apache veterans.
Collecting the photographs over the past two years has been a rewarding project for retired army Colonel David C’de Baca.
Walking clockwise around the atrium, Baca explained how the exhibit begins in the 1880s and travels through the Civil War, World Wars I and II, Korea, and Vietnam.
Half of the photos came from the state archives in Santa Fe; others from veterans and their families.
In one photo, WWII veteran Tommy Otero from Torreon is depicted in a warm-hearted pose holding a small dog. In another he’s dressed in his finest as a graduate of a Navajo Code Talker class.
Navajo Code Talker Frank Chee Willetto, former Vice President of the Navajo Nation and Navajo Nation Supreme Court justice, is shown standing in front of the American flag in a highly decorated red military cap
Staring straight ahead, Herbert Tsosie, who identifies as being from Jemez Pueblo, also a WWII veteran, appears with the collar of his military-issued jumpsuit raised around his neck and goggles pushed back on his forehead.
Pointing out a panel that lists the names of 200 Native Americans who registered to serve during WWI (1914-1918), Baca said that the military refused to sign them up because they didn’t hold U.S. citizenship as the U.S. did not grant citizenship to Native Americans until 1924.
Baca said that he included their names in the exhibit because, “They wanted to serve. They came forward and registered; through no fault of their own they couldn’t serve.”