WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — The Navajo Nation Council is urging an investigation be launched into the recent death of a soldier while he was training at an Army post in Texas.
Pvt. Carlton L. Chee, 25, reportedly died after collapsing during a training exercise at the Fort Hood Army post in Texas. He was a member of the Navajo Nation from Ramah Pine Hill, New Mexico.
Pvt. Chee’s death is one of 28 to occur at the Fort Hood U.S. Army post this year, according to The Associated Press.
"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 nation Speaker Seth Damon.
The Army has reportedly said it will launch an overall investigation into the management of the post, along with a more detailed investigation into previous cases.
Pvt. Chee was a 2015 graduate of Pine Hill High School. He was noted by school officials for his participation in football, basketball, and track and field throughout his high school career and entered the Army in February as a tank crewman, the nation said in a press release.
"The Navajo Nation Council honors Private Chee for his desire to serve and protect his fellow countrymen and his country," Council Delegate Daniel E. Tso said.
"We pray for the Chee family and extended relatives. May we all join in prayer for all our servicemen and women.”
Chee was not the only Navajo service member to lose their life at Fort Hood. Army Specialist Miguel Yazzie, 33, died of complications from septic shock due to do ischemic enterocolitis which is an infection of his large intestines on July 3.
His father Michael Yazzie spoke with 12 News and had no idea his son was dealing with medical issues until after his death.
“We got down there on July 3rd, at one o’clock in the morning. We talked with him. We gave him hugs. The Chaplin was there. A tear came out his left eye. Then one out of his right eye. We took the ventilator off and he was gone in three minutes.” said Yazzie.
His son enlisted in 2016 as an air defense system operator and spent time in South Korea before being stationed at Fort Hood last year.
"There are many other unexplained deaths that happened at Fort Hood. So it's not just for our Navajo members but other families that want answers to what's happening there," Nation President Jonathan Nez said.
President Nez submitted letters of inquiry to the offices of Senator Martha McSally and New Mexico Senator Martin Heinrich. Both sit on the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel which along with the House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on National Security are launching an investigation into Fort Hood.
Maj. Gen. Richardson stated three investigations will be conducted by both the independent Criminal Investigation Division and the unit’s investigators. He also stated an independent autopsy will be conducted and the results shared with Chee’s next of kin.
Speaker Damon stressed the importance of maintaining transparency and in keeping the families of both Pvt. Chee and Army Spc. Yazzie updated. Chief of Staff Colonel Kelly Webster said he will make contact with the casualty assistance officers responsible for ensuring the next of kin is kept apprised of the developments of the investigations.
Maj. Gen. Richardson acknowledged the Navajo Nation‘s service rates to the Department of Defense as the highest per capita. Speaker Damon said, “As many as one in four of our graduates enters into one of the branches of the US military.”
“I personally have my brother and two relatives that have served at Fort Hood,” stated Speaker Damon, stressing the importance of maintaining the lines of communication between the families of Pvt. Chee and Army Spc. Yazzie, as well as Navajo leadership.
The investigation of Pvt. Yazzie’s death is expected to conclude after a thorough autopsy is completed, said Maj. Gen. Richardson.
On Tuesday afternoon, a joint investigation by the House Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Military Personnel and the House Oversight Committee’s Subcommittee on National Security was launched into the soldier deaths at Fort Hood, which were reported to have reached 28 this year after Pvt. Chee’s passing.