War hero, grandfather missing since Friday


The younger brother of Lee C. Bistui, 76, said his brother was supposed to pick up some milk for his goats and sheep on Friday from his child’s home.

Lee C. Bistui

When he didn’t show, they figured he had changed his mind and did not contact him to ask him where he was. On Saturday, Howard Bitsui said they called him, but he did not answer. Since a heavy snow fall began to fall, it prompted his children to drive to his sheep camp, which is located three miles south of the Steamboat Chapter House. They arrived and saw his sheep were scattered about, but did not see him.

They searched and found his ATV was missing and his winter gear was inside his hogan. His truck was also parked, untouched.

Bistui said it was unusual for his brother to just leave the camp unprepared for the frigid cold temperatures. So they contacted the Navajo Nation Police, he said, and filed a missing person report.

The snowstorm continued, making efforts to search for him dangerous and nearly impossible. That did not deter the community and his veterans’ organization from making an effort to search for him as they four-wheeled it through the rugged terrain and nearly a foot of snow.

By Sunday, Bistui said, the chapter house had become the command post. The Ganado Fire Department arrived by 8 a.m. and began searching for the Vietnam veteran. They searched into the night and stopped at 3 a.m. with no success, Bitsui said.

Bistui said his brother is well known throughout the reservation and is a loving grandfather to many. He added that he is one of eight siblings and always wore a veterans cap wherever he went.

Since he went missing, his family has been asking for volunteers to help search for their beloved patriarch. They’ve also said to come well prepared because the terrain and dangerous weather should not be taken for granted.

Bitsui also said money donations are not being accepted by the family, and if any donation sites are set up, they are not authorized by the family.

“We’re just concentrating on food, water and volunteers,” he said.

He added six Navajo Nation Rangers arrived at the command post and are currently searching for the Purple Heart recipient.

A flyer from the Navajo Nation Missing Persons Update Facebook page says Bitsui is 5’8 inches tall, weighs 185 pounds and was last seen on a camouflage ATV. No clothing description of what he was last seen wearing is listed on the flyer.

Bitsui said if anyone is interested in volunteering to help search for his brother, they need to call Glenda Wheeler at 505-701-7607, or to go to the Steamboat Chapter House before venturing out.

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