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Nancy Ann Toglena Martin says her military service taught her how to delegate, develop management skills and address the needs of her squad members

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SHIPROCK — Members of the Northern Agency Navajo Veterans Organization have selected a Shiprock resident to serve on the new Navajo Nation Veterans Advisory Council.

The veterans organization, comprised of veterans from the 19 chapters in the Northern Agency, selected Nancy Ann Toglena Martin on March 31.

In January, the Navajo Nation Council passed legislation that established the Navajo Nation Veterans Administration under the tribe’s Office of the President and Vice President.

The bill also initiated the Navajo Nation Veterans Advisory Council, which will consist of 11 members, including agency commanders and female and male veteran representatives.

Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye signed the council resolution into law on Feb. 13.

“To be in this position, it’s humbling, and I’m honored that I got picked for it,” Martin said in an interview last week.

Details about the advisory council have not been released, but Martin said she would like the group to advocate for U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs services on the Navajo Nation and encourage veterans to register with their chapters.

She understands the problems veterans face when returning home to the Navajo Nation, including housing issues.

When Martin returned to Shiprock after serving in the U.S. Army, she started working on securing a home site lease and applying for a house to be built on the land.

Martin, 58, enlisted in the Army in October 1986 and now is an individual retired reserve.

She has been deployed to Korea, Afghanistan and Iraq during Operation Desert Storm. While deployed, her military occupation was a petroleum supply specialist.

She served as a military police officer while stationed at Fort Lee, Va., and Fort Lewis, Wash., and at an Air Force base in Rosemont, Ill.

Prior to her enlistment, Martin worked for five years as a detention officer and then as a police officer with the Navajo Nation Police Department.

Through her military service, she learned how to delegate, develop management skills and address the needs of her squad members.

“Being a solider is taking care of each other,” she said.

Paul George, commander of the Northern Agency Navajo Veterans Organization, said the group selected Martin because she talked about her community service and explained her reasons for returning home.

She also expressed a desire "to be of service to the veterans on the Navajo Nation, not just the Shiprock area but other areas,” George said.

“Because of her experience with the military, she saw the life — what’s it’s like in the military. When she came out, what she confronted with the problems, she thought she would help other veterans having similar problems,” he said.

There will be a swearing-in ceremony for the advisory council members on Monday in Window Rock, Ariz., according to George.

Right now, Martin is applying the skills she learned in the Army to her work as a clerk with the U.S. Postal Service in northwest New Mexico, a position she started in 2013.
It's one of many roles she has filled in her life, including being the daughter of Grace Toglena, of Shiprock, and a mother of five children.

“The one that I’m most proud of is being a solider. I feel comfortable and I feel at home when I put my boots on and I put my uniform,” Martin said.

During an interview last week, Martin was joined by her sister, Mabel Yazzie-Benallie.

“I know my sister, I have confidence in her. She can do the job. She’s very reliable,” Yazzie-Benallie said.

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

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