Annual honor walk focuses on women veterans, starts Tuesday
FARMINGTON >> The military service of women will be honored during this year's veterans honor walk along N.M. Highway 371.
The "Honoring Our Women Veterans" walk will start at 8 a.m. Tuesday in Thoreau. It will proceed along the highway with stops in Crownpoint, Whiterock, Tiis Tsoh Sikaad and Northern Edge Casino before concluding on Saturday, July 11 at the Walter Collins Center in Upper Fruitland.
There will also be an assortment of activities at the Walter Collins Center on July 11 and a bike run that day from the Baca-Prewitt Chapter to the center.
Candice Pioche-Zunie, one of the organizers, said registration for the walk is not required, and individuals may join anytime along the route and walk as many miles as they choose.
"It's not only for Native veterans. It's open to every nationality, every veteran status — active, guard, reserve, retired. We're excited," Pioche-Zunie said.
Participants will be escorted by law enforcement officials from the Navajo Nation police departments in Crownpoint and Shiprock, and by the San Juan County Sheriff's Office.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as water and Gatorade, will be provided to the walkers.
Octovia Silentman, another organizer, said personal vehicles are not allowed to follow the group along the highway due to safety concerns expressed by state highway officials.
Pioche-Zunie, a U.S. Air Force veteran who served from 2002 to 2006, said in addition to honoring female veterans, the event is focusing on their issues and concerns.
"As females, we tend to express our issues differently then men do," Silentman said, adding that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is starting to offer services for women's health.
Silentman is an Air Force veteran who enlisted in 2007 and retired in 2014.
They hope female veterans will attend the walk and become involved with local veterans organizations because their input and experience is needed.
Both women have family members who served in the military.
Pioche-Zunie's father is a U.S. Army veteran who served in Vietnam, and her brother retired from the Army. In addition to her family, she worked with the Department of Navajo Veterans Affairs' AmeriCorps program in the early 2000s.
Silentman's paternal grandfather was a World War II veteran, and her brother and sister are Army veterans. Another sister was in the Army ROTC.
Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.
“Honoring Our Women Veterans” walk