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Vietnam vet still waiting, 40 years later

WINDOW ROCK

Homeless veteran Perry Slivers said Navajo Nation Council delegates get paid for talking to him.

Four hundred bucks a chat, to be exact.

The Vietnam veteran has been homeless for so many years he doesn’t count them anymore.

“I just quit counting,” Slivers said on Tuesday, outside the Council Chamber in Window Rock.

He said when Delegate Otto Tso walked up to him to shake his hand, he said looked Tso in the eye and refused to shake his hand.

For Slivers, Tso was one of the delegates that voted to send Delegate Kee Allen Begay’s legislation back to the Nabik’iyati’ Committee.

He said Delegate Raymond Smith Jr., a Navy veteran who voted against another of Begay’s bills, voted the way he did because he only did it to continue making money off the bill.

“Right now, if I walk in there and talk to one of those councilmen, he’s gonna write down my name, what time I came in, what I came for, what we talked about, and he’s gonna get $400 just for seeing me,” explained Slivers.

“That’s how they work,” he said. “That’s a bunch of crap. They get paid for talking to me.”

To be clear, Sliver doesn’t live on the streets, he lives with his son. But by the Navajo Veterans Administration’s definition, he’s considered homeless.

And since he and his wife have had a home-site lease for the last 40 years, they qualify for a home — and this is where they’ve been stuck in limbo.

These days he laughs at his situation because he’s taken his concerns to the Chinle Agency veterans office and to the Navajo VA, hoping by some miracle someone would tell him he and his wife would get a home of their own.

Fourteen thousand, six hundred days later, they haven’t gotten any kind of good news about a new home.

“If they help me out with a house it’s OK with me,” said Slivers, sounding as if he is resigned to never receiving a home. “If they don’t, It’s OK with me.”

Slivers said his application has gone between the Chinle veterans’ office and the Navajo VA office so often he doesn’t want to ask for an update because he’s afraid they might tell him it’s lost.

To stay busy and to keep his mind off of his own problems, Slivers, along with Many Farms Chapter Secretary Jacqueline Begaye and Many Farms Veterans Organization Commander Anthony Redhouse, gathers wood for Many Farms residents, veterans’ widows, and veterans unable to get wood for themselves.

Perhaps it’s a way of giving back, but the aging veteran cannot who but reveal his concern for his own well-being as he quickly covers it with a chuckle.

Slivers said he’s also dealing with the side effects of Agent Orange, which, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, was used in Vietnam as a herbicide to clear vegetation from areas in U.S. military operations.

He added he is also an 80% disabled veteran.

On Monday, Slivers joined a handful of other veterans at the Council Chamber. They wanted an explanation from the delegates who killed or voted to send Begay’s veteran legislation back to Nabik’iyati’.

Begay spoke to the small group of veterans and said he planned to reintroduce his bill, which would have changed the process of selecting a veterans’ director.

He added he would also reintroduce a bill which would establish a housing program manager position to oversee the veteran housing program. This was defeated, 13-9, during the summer session.

His last legislation, which would amend the Veterans Trust Fund and create business unit numbers when funding the 110 chapter veterans organizations, was sent back to Nabik’iyati’ by a vote of 11-8 during a special session on Tuesday.

For Slivers, it’s just another day added on to the number of days he’s been homeless.

“I’ll believe it when I see it,” was his response when he was asked if Navajo VA Director James Zwierlein called him and told him he would be getting a new home.

Marine Corps veteran and candidate for Navajo Nation president Justin Jones said how the tribal government was treating Navajo veterans, Gold Star mothers, Blue Star Mothers and Navajo veterans killed in action, was insulting.

Jones referenced another Marine Corps veteran, Jasper Walker from St. Michaels, who served in the Vietnam War from 1969 to 1974, as one of thousands of Navajo veterans who were insulted by politicians that never sat on a wall like Walker did to protect freedom. Walker also participated in Tuesday’s walk.

“That Marine, he has an amputated left arm,” Jones said. “He lost his arm in Vietnam, and yet his needs and his cause is being horse-traded like that for people that never even served. That’s what’s crazy to me.”


About The Author

Donovan Quintero

"Dii, Diné bi Naaltsoos wolyéhíígíí, ninaaltsoos át'é. Nihi cheii dóó nihi másání ádaaní: Nihi Diné Bizaad bił ninhi't'eelyá áádóó t'áá háadida nihizaad nihił ch'aawóle'lágo. Nihi bee haz'áanii at'é, nihisin at'é, nihi hózhǫ́ǫ́jí at'é, nihi 'ach'ą́ą́h naagééh at'é. Dilkǫǫho saad bee yájíłti', k'ídahoneezláo saad bee yájíłti', ą́ą́ chánahgo saad bee yájíłti', diits'a'go saad bee yájíłti', nabik'íyájíłti' baa yájíłti', bich'į' yájíłti', hach'į' yándaałti', diné k'ehgo bik'izhdiitįįh. This is the belief I do my best to follow when I am writing Diné-related stories and photographing our events, games and news. Ahxéhee', shik'éí dóó shidine'é." - Donovan Quintero is assistant editor of the Navajo Times, and an award-winning Diné journalist, who is based in Window Rock, Arizona. He can be contacted at dq@navajotimes.com.

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