Free event takes place on San Juan College campus
FARMINGTON — Local veterans and their family members turned out for "Gathering of Warriors: Resiliency and Reintegration," a conference focused on helping veterans with information, assistance, career building and support.
The free conference started on Friday at the Henderson Fine Arts Center on the San Juan College campus.
It continues Saturday with a motorcycle run from Shiprock to Farmington, a gourd dance and work sessions.
Pyn Francisco-Hosteen, the event coordinator, said the event is derived from another veterans conference last year about resiliency, reintegration and suicide prevention.
"The whole purpose of the event is to bring our veterans out from all of our committees to let them know that we are here to support them as a committee and as community members," Francisco-Hosteen said.
In addition to providing support, another focus of the event is providing veterans the opportunity to learn about programs through workshops, entertainment and family activities, and to let them know about the various agencies that are to help.
The workshops focused on reintegration, transitioning to community, maintaining healthy relationships and veterans benefits, she said.
One of the unique workshops was a yoga class to teach relaxation and mediation, which encourages veterans to become aware of their feelings and thoughts, Francisco-Hosteen said.
The opening ceremonies started with the posting of the colors by the Nenahnezad Chapter Veterans Organization Color Guard followed by Lynnelle Henderson Washburn singing the national anthem in the Navajo language.
"We're going to remember a lot of good things and, on top of that, share a lot of good information," said Rex Harvey Sr., who served as the master of ceremonies.
Clayton Small gave the keynote address, in which he acknowledged the veterans, their services and the support they received from family members.
"Family members are patient. They possess unconditional love because our veterans who come back often have lots of stress, PTSD and you have to be patient and do your best," he said.
Small is Northern Cheyenne and the CEO of Native P.R.I.D.E., a nonprofit organization that offers culture-based programs that focus on prevention, wellness and leadership development.
He helped the audience become comfortable through a series of ice breakers and had them interact by talking to each other and sharing words of advice. Some expressions resulted in laughter.
After the interaction, Small talked about his father, Horace H. Small Sr., a World War II veteran who died last month, and shared information about his great-grandfather, Richard Wooden Legs, a warrior who fought in the Battle of the Little Bighorn.
He said learning about their experiences taught him that one emotion a veteran can develop is guilt.
"We act out that shame and guilt in an unhealthy way," Small said, explaining that that could involve turning to alcohol, drugs, gambling or violence.
But those are not solutions, and this conference provides an outlet, he said.
"We have to learn how to cope in a healthy way," Small said.
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