WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — Navajo Nation President Buu Nygren met an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran, who thought he lost a letter that could have gotten him and his family a home ten years ago.
His wait is over.
On March 31, Operation Iraqi Freedom U.S. Army veteran Franklin Gishey and his wife Bryanna Woody were compelled to drive to Flagstaff.
That’s when the Navajo Nation Veterans Administration held an orientation at Twin Arrows Casino & Resort for Navajo Nation Council delegates. The Gisheys had something to tell them.
For 10 years, they had waited for the three-bedroom home they had applied for and knew they had been approved for. But along the way, all their paperwork had been lost.
They submitted it again. It was lost again. After a decade of frustration, they went to Twin Arrows to tell their story one more time.
On Monday, the Gisheys were in Window Rock where they watched Navajo Nation President Buu Nygren sign their second approval letter. He assured them they would now finally receive the house they’ve waited for.
“We are happy to report that Veterans Administration Director Bobbie Ann Baldwin has found the Navajo Nation’s 2014 approval for your new home,” the President’s letter reads.
The President’s letter says that the Navajo Nation and the Southwest Indian Foundation are expected to contract by late May to build theirs and other veterans homes.
“I’m really appreciative of our veterans,” the President told the Gisheys who came to visit him in his office Monday and to witness him signing their notification letter. “It’s very important to me. For myself, for my administration, I’m just very thankful.”
The Gisheys came to the President office with Franklin Gishey’s parents, Franklin and Jennie Gishey, and Bryanna’s mother, Lisa Ann Woody.
At home in Phoenix, the Gishey’s two teenage sons, Brayden, 16 and Brennon, 14, met the President through Facetime. The Gisheys also have a daughter, Brielle.
After hearing their story at the delegates’ orientation on April 6, OPVP Executive Staff Assistant Olin Kieyoomia, himself an Army veteran who is assigned to veterans affairs, last week began to go through a storage unit where old documents are kept.
After digging for two hours, he located the Gishey’s half-inch thick file and within it was their approval letter signed by Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly in 2014. He took it to Director Baldwin who immediately began to process it so that the Gisheys would receive their long-awaited home.
“We’re very grateful that this happened,” said Mr. Gishey, who served as a sergeant with Charlie Company, 1st Platoon 2/325 A.I.R. Infantry-82ndAirborne Division All Americans in Iraq. “We’re very thankful but 10 years is a long time.”
President Nygren acknowledged it’s too long.
“That’s what I’m pushing on my end,” he said. “I want to make sure our agency offices are equipped. If you know of other veterans, tell them to be hopeful. As time moves on, tell them to get their documents submitted and get in the line.”
Mr. Gishey told the President he’s from Greasewood and joined the Army right out of high school.
“You have to go off the rez to start your life,” he said. “We’ve all been brought up that once you learn something, you get knowledge, you go to school and you come back to the rez and help your people and that’s what we’ve been doing.”
He said he and his wife have been through three past administrations to get to this point.
“I’ve got a 10 year paper trail right there,” he said.
President Nygren said veterans remain among his top priorities, and that days like today reassure him he has the right staff. He said it makes him even more hopeful other veterans receive the benefits they, too, have been waiting too long for.