LB - Northland Motorsports

Home | Classifieds | Place an Ad | Public Notices | Galleries | Milestones | Contact Us | Subscribe | e-newsletter | RSS |
Navajo-Hopi Observer | Flagstaff, Arizona

home : features : latest news May 26, 2016

11/26/2013 9:56:00 AM
American Legion: veterans helping veterans
American Legion Post No. 3 Commander Orrin Chimerica. Ryan Williams/NHO
American Legion Post No. 3 Commander Orrin Chimerica. Ryan Williams/NHO
Orrin Chimerica is the first Native American to be American Legion Post No. 3 Commander. Ryan Williams/NHO
Orrin Chimerica is the first Native American to be American Legion Post No. 3 Commander. Ryan Williams/NHO
Katherine Locke

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - Orrin Chimerica, 40, has haunted eyes. Slightly watery and red, likely from the three shots he received hours ago for his lingering post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

His eyes have seen more of the horror of war than many people. As a combat coreman (medic) in the United States Navy, he was the first person to patch up the injured on the battlefield.

The suicide a week and a half ago of a friend and fellow veteran who had completed two combat tours shook him but also made him more determined to inform veterans that there are places to go for help. As the new American Legion Post No. 3 Commander in Flagstaff, and the only Native American and Hopi to assume the post, Chimerica is in a position to deliver on that determination.

"I want to do this for everybody, not just Native Americans, but any veteran who comes through these doors, that's my job," Chimerica said. "A lot of people died for the flag."

The American Legion, while a closed and private club restricted to those who are veterans, Sons of the American Legion or part of the Ladies Auxillary, reaches out to the community in a number of ways all with the goal of helping veterans.

The Legion puts on a boys day and a girls day for younger kids, gives presentations to schools and teaches patriotism. Chimerica personally delivers flags to Eagle Scouts.

Legion members collect blankets, jackets, hygeine kits and dried goods for the homeless. They put on an event that started last year, called Stand Down for homeless veterans, where they collected donations like sleeping bags and blankets and anything that would help from the city of Flagstaff and Camp Navajo in Bellemont.

"We need to serve our veterans but at the same time, when you are a veteran you are always taught responsibility, loyalty, integrity and honesty... When you come through here, you can't just be asking for help. You have to help yourself, too," Chimerica said.

He said there are a lot of organizations available to help with different needs and the Legion helps direct people to where they need to go. They have vans to transport people to the Veterans Administration (VA) hospital in Prescott, where vets can get medical treatment.

"Coconino County is a big county, there are a lot of veterans out there. If they are in distress or if they need help, [they should go] to the nearest hospital. Get it done, go to the nearest VA where you can get the proper help," Chimerica said.

His officers, a senior-vice (second in command), junior-vice (third in command) a chaplain, a financial adjutant, and sergeant-at-arms, all are involved in outreach to the veterans and helping them get help.

Chimerica said the Ladies Auxillary, which puts on bingo night, has its own chain of command and each group supports the other.

"It is kinda cool to be the first Native American to do this," Chimerica said.

Chimerica is from Upper Moenkopi and he joined the Navy right out of high school.

His father, Paul Chimerica Jr., was the first in his family to graduate from Arizona State University and then Northern Arizona University. His father was a math teacher at the junior high school in Tuba City and had a message for Chimerica.

"He always told me, 'Don't stay here, go out and do something,'" Chimerica said, adding that he did by joining the Navy, where he served 13 years and did six combat tours in Bosnia, Guatemala, Afghanistan and Iraq.

He sees his work today in helping veterans find the care they need in the same way he saw helping soldiers as a medic on the battlefield.

"If you're hungry, I can make you a sandwich. If you need to go to Prescott for PTSD or alcohol or some sort of drug rehab, bring us your honorable discharge and I can get you down there," Chimerica said. "Even though I can't help you on the battlefield anymore, I can help here at the Post. That's what helps me sleep at night."

He said that a lot of veterans are lost today to suicide just as he lost his friend.

"It's sad, damn, he made it through combat and then he comes home - he was 100 percent disabled so he was getting money, but then he kills himself," Chimerica said.

Chimerica wants to intervene before a veteran gets to the point where they feel like suicide is the only option.

"There's somebody that loves you, so let's address the problem, get you fixed up, at least put a band-aid on, but you can live," Chimerica said. "These are the guys we need to get into the VA system."

He acknowledged that a lot of veterans do not know what services are available but even the ones who do do not always get the help they need.

"There was a slogan at the VA that says, 'It takes a warrior to ask for help,'" Chimerica said.

Chimerica lived that slogan during his 10-month stint at the Prescott VA for treatment for PTSD. He was one of the stubborn ones, he said, who didn't think he needed any help. Chimerica still has nightmares. He said his memories of combat will never go away. Smells and sounds trigger his PTSD. But he said the VA program helped him.

"Now, after I got the proper help, I know how to deal with it," he said. "I go outside, I go for a walk, I play with the dog. I just do something. That is what mindful meditation means. It is about doing things and addressing things. Not through drugs or alcohol."

Chimerica believes his experience can help him help others like himself and their families. He said it is not just male veterans who need to reach out for help. There are women veterans, too, who are dealing with the same issues and need help.

"I will help anyone who walks through these doors," Chimerica said. "That's why I became commander, to help."

The American Legion is located at 204 W. Birch Ave., Flagstaff, AZ 86001.

    Recently Commented     Most Viewed
Mapmaker continues quest to document indigenous cultures
New documentary focuses on Native American veterans on Navajo Nation
Letter to the editor: Where do children learn to speak fluent Navajo?
Delegate Edmund Yazzie continues work for Thoreau, N.M. clinic
Pirates of the Navajo Nation under attack

Article Comment Submission Form
Comments are not posted immediately. Submissions must adhere to our Use of Service Terms of Use agreement. The email and phone info you provide will not be visible to the public. Rambling or nonsensical comments may not be posted. Comments are limited to 1300 characters or less. In order for us to reasonably manage this feature we may limit your comment entries to five(5) per day.
Submit an Article Comment
First Name:
Last Name:
Anti-SPAM Passcode Click here to see a new mix of characters.
This is an anti-SPAM device. It is not case sensitive.

Advanced Search

HSE - We want to hear from you
Find more about Weather in Flagstaff, AZ
Click for weather forecast

Submission links
 •  Submit site feedback or questions

Find It Opinions Features Submit Extras Other Publications
Home | Classifieds | Place an Ad | Public Notices | Galleries | Milestones | Contact Us | Subscribe | e-newsletter | RSS | Site Map
LB - Northland Motorsports

© Copyright 2016 Western News&Info, Inc.® The Navajo-Hopi Observer is the information source for the Navajo and Hopi Nations and Winslow area communities in Northern Arizona. Original content may not be reprinted or distributed without the written permission of Western News&Info, Inc.® Navajo-Hopi Observer Online is a service of WNI. By using the Site, ®, you agree to abide and be bound by the site's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy, which prohibit commercial use of any information on the site. Click here to submit your questions, comments or suggestions. Navajo-Hopi Observer Online is a proud publication of Western News&Info Inc.® All Rights Reserved.

Software © 1998-2016 1up! Software, All Rights Reserved