Navajo Soldier remember heritage

By Spc. Leah R. Burton
28th Public Affairs Detachment

LOGISTICS SUPPORT AREA ANACONDA, Balad, Iraq — It's very easy to lose touch with one's heritage in the cultural stew that is the U.S. This has especially affected the Native Americans, who first called home the land we know as America.

Sgt. Delvin Slick, a carpentry and masonry specialist in the 84th Combat Engineer Battalion from Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, hails from a Navajo reservation in Arizona and clings tightly to his Native American roots.

Born in Tuba City, Ariz., and raised on the Navajo reservation in Shonto, Ariz., Slick spent much of his time learning about Navajo history and tradition from his grandparents.

"My mother used to take me to my grandmother's. She has no electricity and no running water. I had to help her tend to the livestock," Slick said.

His grandparents still live the traditional Navajo way, which is simplistic and focuses on respecting and honoring Mother Earth and all that she provides. Slick's grandparents taught him about the "Long Walk," in which about 8,000 Navajo men, women and children were rounded up and made to walk more than 300 miles from northeastern Arizona and northwestern New Mexico to a desolate tract of land on the Pecos River, called Bosque Redondo.

This has given him a greater understanding and appreciation of his heritage, he said.

"My grandfather taught me what our people went through, what our culture's all about," Slick said. "I'm very grateful for that. I didn't appreciate it then."

Slick attended school on the reservation until high school, when he went to Flagstaff High School in Flagstaff, Ariz. Immediately after high school, Slick joined the Army.

"I saw an opportunity to get an education and to get away from home," Slick said.

Although his family members had mixed feelings about his decision to join the Army, his grandparents told him to do what he felt he had to do and let them know what the world is like.

He attended Basic Combat Training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., and Advanced Individual Training at the Naval Construction Battalion Center at Gulfport, Miss., in 1996.

Because of the values instilled in him by his parents and grandparents, Slick fits right into the military way of life. Some of the most valuable lessons he learned from his family are to be responsible and to respect other people.

"When I was growing up, everyone had a responsibility, even the little kids." Slick said.

Due to the influence of American culture, a lot of Navajo values and traditions are being lost. Slick said his grandmother talked of a time when things would change, when the Navajo ways would all but disappear.

He manages to hang onto his heritage, however.

"All I have to do is go back home and talk to my grandparents. They remind me who I am and where I came from," Slick said.


news photo
(LOGISTICS SUPPORT AREA ANACONDA, Balad, Iraq) - Sgt. Delvin Slick constructs the walls of a new structure he is building here by hammering in nails to hold the planks together. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Leah R. Burton)

news photo
(LOGISTICS SUPPORT AREA ANACONDA, Balad, Iraq) - Sgt. Delvin Slick checks the level of the walls to make sure they are even before adding another vertical plank to lengthen it. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Leah R. Burton)