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Navajos honor returning U.S Marine brothers

It is the smell of the Shiprock air, the smell of the tawny earth around their family’s home, that John and Cheston Bailon can best appreciate now. (3/25)


Tribe pays tribute as Bailons come back home

George Hardeen 10/10/2005

It is the smell of the Shiprock air, the smell of the tawny earth around their family’s home, that John and Cheston Bailon can best appreciate now.

Like countless combat veterans before them, their senses and sense of gratitude have been recalibrated by bullets, bombs and the death of comrades. At only 20 and 21 years of age a year ago, their parents Francisco and Fannie Bailon saw their boys leave home for the U.S. Marines but return from Iraq as men.

On Saturday, the Bailon family celebrated the safe return early Friday morning of U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. John Bailon and Cpl. Cheston Bailon with a daylong dinner at their home here. Among the 50 guests were Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley, Jr., Shiprock Council Delegate Wallace Charley and Joe Cambridge Sr., father of Cpl. Lyle Cambridge, 23, of Shiprock who was killed in Iraq on July 5.

The Bailon brothers have returned from seven months in the Al Anbar Province of Iraq. They are with Delta Company, 4th Recon Battalion, attached to Lima Company 25, 3rd Battalion. They expect to return any time within 18 months.

“It makes the heart glad to have you return safely to these sacred lands,” President Shirley told them. “Our soldiers are the reason we have freedom in the land. You are not only defending the United States of America, you¹re defending our native lands.”

Shirley said that an Azeé Bee Nahagha ceremony, conducted by Charley, was done for the men, and that doing that is good.

“Even giving it a thought, a word or two in prayer, is an honorable thing, a sacred thing,” he said. “If you want to advance yourself, if you want to make your mark, you bow down to our cultural ways.”

Shirley said that whenever he can, he tells the people to always pray for our Navajo service men and women.

“We remember you in our prayers. I want you to know that,” he said. “When you return to the front lines, we continue to sing our sacred songs for you and send up our prayers to the Creator. Always believe that you will come back safely.”

John Bailon, who wants to become a doctor after military service, said it felt good that everyone was giving thanks to him and his brother but that they felt the thanks really belonged to those who gave them such support.

“It's you who should be thanked,” he said. “Thanks to all the leaders here. It’s been a difficult deployment being the older one seeing my little brother getting shot at on the other side of the city.”

Cheston Bailon, who plans to become a lawyer, said the worst part of combat is fear of the unknown and the loss of friends who didn¹t make it home. Their battalion lost 48 soldiers during their tour of duty.

Both men said they are on a mutton binge right now and are appreciating being home, surrounded by the parents, sisters Jodene, 18, and Jessica, 14, and their other relatives.

President Shirley presented the Navajo Nation Plaque of Honor to both returning soldiers on behalf of Navajo Nation.

It reads: “In appreciation, on behalf of the Navajo people and our Great Navajo nation, for your Courage, Service, and Commitment on the Frontlines of War and for your willingness to give the Ultimate Sacrifice so that there will be freedom in the Land and the Diné Way of Life will be protected. We are vigilant in prayer for you as you continue to serve our Nation. May the Creator always be with you.”

George Hardeen works for the Navajo Nation.