TUBA CITY, AZ – Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Navajo Nation Veterans Administration Director James Zwierlein had the honor of presenting keys to a new home to 73-year-old Vietnam War veteran, Andrew Kelly, in Tuba City, AZ. The 1,300 sq. ft. hogan-style home was built on a solid concrete foundation consisting of two bedrooms, living room, kitchen, bathroom, and new appliances with electricity, plumbing, and sewage system installed. The home is ADA accessible with widened doorways, safety handrails, walk-in shower, outdoor ramp to the doorway, and other handicap features to accommodate the veteran.
Kelly is Honágháahnii (One-Walks-Around clan) and born for Tsé deeshgizhnii (Rock Gap People). He enlisted with the U.S. Army in 1969 and served with the 1st Air Cavalry Division as an Army Medic with the rank of SPC4. He was awarded several medals for his service in the Vietnam War including the Silver Star, Purple Heart, Bronze Star, 2 Air Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Commendation Medal, and Combat Infantry Badge. The Silver Star is the third highest military decoration for valor in combat.
“This is a long-awaited accomplishment and a blessing for our Diné warrior, Andrew Kelly, who is regarded as one of the most decorated veterans in all of the Navajo Nation,” said President Nez, who also commended the Navajo Nation Veterans Administration for their dedication and hard work to complete the new home. “He comes from a renowned military family and he fought for our country in the Vietnam War and he continues to be an inspiration for all of our Diné people. May he and his family enjoy many good times together in their new home, for which he sacrificed more than any of us will ever know or experience. We honor Mr. Kelly and we thank him for his service to our country.”
The Navajo Veterans Administration, under Director Zwierlein, worked diligently to craft legislation to update the Veterans Housing Program policies that allowed the program to proceed with the construction of new homes for Navajo veterans. The program was established years ago, but internal policies hindered production and resources. With the revised policies in place, quality-built homes for veterans are now being built in several communities for veterans.
“The Navajo Nation Veterans Administration has worked through many policy challenges to reach this point where we are now constructing high-quality homes for our warriors,” said President Nez. “This is progress and we are producing results as more homes are under construction at this time. This is a great step forward for the Veterans Housing Program and I commend Mr. Zwierlein and his team for fixing many of the deficiencies and policy issues that were previously in place.”
Kelly expressed his appreciation and also acknowledged his father, Andrew Kelly, Sr., who served in the U.S. Army in World War II and his grandfather, Charles Kelly, who served the United States in World War I. “I’m excited for what we all started here. We, Navajo people, have to be an example to the rest of the world as the largest Indigenous nation,” said Kelly.
In addition to constructing new homes, the Navajo Veterans Administration is also overseeing repairs and improvements to over 100 homes that were previously constructed for Navajo veterans between 2014 and 2017. In 2017, the Office of the Auditor General conducted an audit of the Veterans Housing Program. So far, at least 20 renovations have been completed within the last nine months.
The Navajo Veterans Administration will continue constructing more homes for Navajo veterans based on the list of housing applications that have been submitted over the course of many years. More homes for Navajo families will be constructed with the approval of additional funding through the American Rescue Plan Act. The Nez-Lizer Administration is proposing to allocate $150 million in American Rescue Plan funding specifically for homes for Navajo families and veterans through Legislation No. 0086-22, which awaits approval from the Navajo Nation Council.