Grand opening set for state veterans office

Noel Lyn Smith
Robertson Yazzie Jr., right, stands next to the Northern Navajo Veterans Center on Dec. 29 in Shiprock.

FARMINGTON – The New Mexico Department of Veterans' Services will have a grand opening celebration on Tuesday for its new office in Shiprock.

The office is part of the department's Rural Veterans Coordination Pilot Program. It is one of five offices to serve rural areas of the state and was funded by a $2 million grant the department received from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Although the office has been offering services since December, it had not moved into its space inside the Northern Navajo Veterans Center.

State Veterans Services Secretary Jack Fox said the office is helping the department in identifying veterans who live in rural areas in the northwest part of the state.

The goal is to identify and register veterans with the Veterans Affairs so they can start receiving benefits and assist registered veterans who may need further help with benefits from the VA or the state, he said.

With the number of veterans increasing over the last 10 years, it is important for them to register in order to start receiving benefits and services because the registration process can be delayed when they are older, he added.

"We're trying to take care of veterans," Fox said, adding the outreach provided by the rural offices will continue to increase.

Since November, Robertson Yazzie Jr. has been serving as the Northwest Rural Veterans Coordination Program Region Coordinator for the Shiprock office. Yazzie has been traveling to chapter houses on the Navajo Nation, including Tóhajiilee and Ramah, and the pueblos of Acoma, Laguna and Zuni. He also visits areas as far north as the Coloradoo border, south to Zuni, west to the Arizona border and east to Dulce.

The grand opening will be at 10 a.m. Tuesday inside the Northern Navajo Veterans Center located along south U.S. Highway 491 in Shiprock.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.