Message to Iraq 
Food, music, letters and video prepared for Navajo Soldiers
by Marley Shebala
The Navajo Times 
06 November 2003

WINDOW ROCK ó Navajo voices, food, faces, drawings, letters and music are headed to Baghdad, Iraq, today.

Navajo Nation Legislative Office staff assistant Leila Help-Tulley said on Wednesday that she and other Legislative Branch employees have been working late into the evenings to meet the Nov. 6 deadline for a Navajo care package for Navajo troops and other military personnel to enjoy by Nov. 20.

It takes about two weeks for mail to reach troops stationed in Iraq.

Help-Tulley said President George Bush designated Nov. 20 as the day for the "Native American Heritage Celebration" for military troops and personnel.

November is National Native American Month and this yearís theme is "Nations Within a Nation."

Help-Tulley said the idea for a message from home for the Navajo troops started with her brother-in-law, Julius Tulley.

Earl Tulley, who is Julius Tulleyís older brother and married to Leila Help-Tulley, remembered on Wednesday that his brother went to Blanding, Utah, for his usual weekend military exercises for the Army Reserves in November 2001.

He said Julius Tulley never came home.

Earl Tulley said his brother and the rest of his company, which consisted of 30 other Navajos, were ordered to remain in Blanding until they were deployed to Iraq a few days later.

Help-Tulley said that when Julius Tulley was deployed to Iraq on Nov. 26, 2001, her husband and she naturally kept in contact with Julius and his company.

Their latest contact with Julius was an email about a week ago, who wrote about the shooting down of an U.S. Army Chinook helicopter that killed 15 American soldiers and wounded 21.

"The attacks have definitely increased," stated Julius. "The enemy is now using sophisticated Iraq/Russian made anti-weapons more than ever before."

He added, "Just a day before this tragic event, my platoon was attacked by four RPGís than landed about 150 yards in front of us. However, we were protected by ten-foot wall.

"The attacks donít really bother me anymore. Maybe itís because it happens so often. I know Heavenly Father is mindful of me each and everyday.

"And of course this has to do a lot with your prayers for me. Thank you. Please tell my loved ones and supporters that their prayers are being answered here. Keep the faith and always be worthy of your blessings."

Help-Tulley said that Julius in earlier emails informed them about the Nov. 20 Native American Heritage Celebration that was being planned and who to contact about getting involved.

She said Navajo Broadcast Services NNTV-5 started working with them on taping messages of support and encouragement from Council Speaker Lawrence Morgan and several council delegates.

Help-Tulley said the legislative staff also contacted Navajo entertainers to provide some "rez" music on the video, which will be 40 minutes.

She said students from Tse Ho Tso Middle School in Ft. Defiance and Ft. Wingate Community School asked to send letters and drawings to the troops for the Heritage Celebration.

A message board has also been created for people and family members to post messages for their loved ones and service people stationed in Iraq and other places overseas, said Help-Tulley.

She said the video, letters and drawings, message board and food will be shared in Baghdad with all the troops and others to see on Nov. 20.

Enough traditional Navajo foods, such as niítsíid digoohi (kneel-down corn bread) and Navajo tea, is being sent for Navajo soldiers and other service people to sample, said Help-Tulley.

She noted that the niítsíid digoohi has to be dried before it was wrapped for mailing.

Earl Tulley said other Navajo families tried to send niítsíid digoohi and it molded before it reached their family member in Iraq.

He explained that niítsíid digoohi and Navajo tea wee sent to Iraq because "itís soul food."

Earl added, "Itís a familiar taste for Navajos. Home is so far away from them (Navajo service people). Particular smells, taste carry them back home. Thatís the significance.

"Also corn is the staple diet of Navajos. We use it to prayer with and sustain and nourishment ourselves physically and spiritually. We wanted to recognize that."

He remembered that it was just a year ago that his younger brother was working as a staff assistant for then President Kelsey Begaye.

Earl said, "I love the soldier and hate the war. I do not agree with what lead up to this particular event, the war, but I understand and support that he (Julius) committed himself to a commander-in-chief and he (Julius) has to fulfill his mission. That sums it up - love the warrior and despise the conflict."

The 40-minute message from home will be aired on NNTV-5 on Nov. 10, Monday, at noon and 5:30 p.m.


Reprinted as an historical reference document under the Fair Use doctrine of international copyright law.