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Army Spc. Clifton J. Yazzie

Died January 20, 2006 Serving During Operation Iraqi Freedom

23, of Fruitland, N.M.; assigned to the 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Ky. killed Jan. 20 when an improvised explosive device detonated near his Humvee during patrol operations in Huwijah, Iraq. Also killed were: Staff Sgt. Rickey Scott, Sgt. Dennis J. Flanagan and Spc. Matthew C. Frantz.

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Sergeant killed in Iraq honored by friends, family

Associated Press

FARMINGTON, N.M. — Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. said a Fruitland sergeant killed in Iraq “has left a legacy for all of us.”

Army Sgt. Clifton Yazzie, 23, was one of four soldiers killed Jan. 20 when a roadside bomb exploded near their Humvee. It was Yazzie’s second tour in Iraq.

His funeral was held Saturday before a standing-room only crowd at the Farmington Civic Center.

State Department of Veterans Services Secretary John Garcia told Yazzie’s family that many soldiers and soldiers’ families share their pain.

Quoting the late civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., Garcia said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

Garcia said Yazzie’s legacy will not be forgotten.

“Clifton stood his ground, feet firmly planted,” he said.

Shirley presented Yazzie’s 21-year-old wife, Michelle, and his parents, Clifford “C.Y.” and Jeanette Yazzie, with a plaque of honor on behalf of the Navajo Nation, and Navajo Nation Vice President Frank Dayish Jr. said he believed the soldier’s journey to the “next life” would be a good one.

“I know it’s difficult at the present time to talk about heroes, to talk about war,” he said.

Clifton Yazzie was posthumously awarded a plaque by the Military Order of the Purple Heart in addition to the Navajo Nation Council’s Warriors Medal of Valor.

“He grew up to become not only a soldier, but also someone fighting for freedom,” said his uncle, Jay Yazzie Jr. “He was truly a Dine (Navajo) warrior.”

Yazzie’s friends and family members recalled their favorite memories of a man they knew as a “smurf.” Jay Yazzie Jr. said Clifton Yazzie had received the nickname because he resembled a smurf when he was a baby.

His uncle said the soldier cared for his family.

“When he was home, he always tried to visit every relative and not leave anyone out,” he said.

He also said Clifton Yazzie was respectful of his elders, and always knew how to greet his relatives — with a big hug.

Yazzie’s junior varsity basketball coach, Richard Crum, recalled learning a lesson from him in 2000 when Yazzie was a junior at Kirtland Central High School.

During a game against a particularly aggressive Colorado team, one of the smaller freshman boys was intentionally fouled by a Colorado player, and Yazzie walked over to the opponent and stood up for the boy — Crum’s son.

Crum said he learned that day that it takes a strong man to stand up for others and face their bullies.

After the funeral, family and friends went to Greenlawn Cemetery to place flowers on Yazzie’s casket and say their final goodbyes.

More than 250 family members and friends also had gathered Jan. 24 at the Nenahnezad Navajo chapter house to remember Yazzie, who is survived by his wife; children Chaynitta, 3, and Cayden, 18 months; and his parents.

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Four 101st Airborne soldiers killed in Iraq

Associated Press

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. — Four soldiers with the 101st Airborne Division were killed and one was injured when a roadside bomb exploded near their Humvee, the Army said Monday.

Staff Sgt. Rickey Scott, Sgt. Dennis J. Flanagan, Sgt. Clifton J. Yazzie and Spc. Matthew C. Frantz were killed in the attack Friday while patrolling near Hawijah, the Army said. The wounded soldier was not identified.

All were members of the 1st Brigade Combat Team based at Fort Campbell.

The deaths were the most in a single incident involving Fort Campbell soldiers since four were killed in November by a roadside bomb.

Scott, 33, of Columbus, Ga., was an infantryman assigned to Company C, 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment. He joined the Army in November 1996 and arrived at Fort Campbell in June 2004.

Scott is survived by his wife, Niki Scott; son, Jatelin Scott of Bossier City, La.; and daughters Diamond Scott and Karlecia Scott, both of Leesville, La.; stepdaughter, Keriston Reddick; father, Rickey Stutson of Columbus, Ga.; and mother, Cynthia Snelling of Geneva, Ga.

Flanagan, 22, of Inverness, Fla., was an infantryman assigned to Company C, 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment. He joined the Army in October 2001 and arrived at Fort Campbell in April 2002.

Flanagan is survived by his father and mother, Dennis and Patricia Flanagan of Inverness.

Yazzie, 23, of Fruitland, N.M., was an infantryman assigned to Company C, 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment. He joined the Army in November 2001 and arrived at Fort Campbell in July 2005. He was promoted posthumously.

Yazzie is survived by his wife, Michelle; 3-year-old daughter, Chynitta; 18-month-old son, Cayden; and father and mother, Clifford and Jeanette Yazzie of Fruitland.

His family told The Daily Times of Farmington, N.M., that Yazzie was on his second tour in Iraq.

Clifton and Michelle Yazzie would have celebrated their fourth wedding anniversary April 15. They had planned to renew their vows during a family vacation to Las Vegas, Nev.

“I’d talk to him and he’d say, ‘We’ll have the wedding we never had. We’ll have the wedding pictures we never had,”’ said Michelle Yazzie, who met her husband at a high school dance she sneaked into.

She said he was devoted to their children. “It’s going to be hard raising them by myself,” she said.

Jeanette Yazzie said her son always wanted to be a soldier and that as a child he would use tree limbs and sticks as imaginary guns to play war.

Frantz, 23, of Lafayette, Ind., was a counterintelligence specialist assigned to 1st Special Troops Battalion. He joined the Army in March 2004 and arrived at Fort Campbell in March 2005.

Frantz is survived by his father and mother, James and Marilyn Frantz of Lafayette, Ind.

Including the four deaths, there have been 110 soldiers from Fort Campbell killed in the Iraq war.

Approximately 20,600 soldiers from Fort Campbell are currently deployed, and nearly 20,000 of those are from the 101st Airborne Division.

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Memorial held for Fruitland soldier killed in Iraq

Associated Press

NENAHNEZAD, N.M. — Friends and family of a 23-year-old Army sergeant killed during his second deployment to Iraq remembered him as an outstanding soldier who did his best.

“He was a great, caring guy. He was my best friend, the closest thing to family you got over there,” said Marco Sanchez, 29, of Acoma, who served with Sgt. Clifton Yazzie of Fruitland during Yazzie’s first tour in Iraq.

Funeral services have not been set, but more than 250 family members and friends gathered at the Nenahnezad Navajo chapter house Tuesday to remember Yazzie, who is survived by his wife, Michelle, 21; children Chaynitta, 3, and Cayden, 18 months; and his parents.

Sanchez and his wife learned of Yazzie’s death from a television newscast.

“We just started crying,” Sanchez said. “It’s something that’s hard to bear.”

Yazzie was killed Friday in an explosion near his Humvee, the Department of Defense said.

Lambert Yazzie, no relation to the soldier, told the crowd, “The hardest thing for us is to share in the passing of one of our warriors.”

Lambert Yazzie, who has a son in Iraq, spoke in front of a table draped with a black-and-gold United States Army blanket on which several photos of Clifton Yazzie were displayed.

Keith Tso, 31, and his brother Kee Tso, 33 — uncles of Michelle Yazzie — remembered Clifton Yazzie as the type of person who brightened up a room with his smile and jokes and was disappointed if he didn’t make people happy.

“He brings the room to life. He’s a happy person. He was always cheerful,” Keith Tso said.

They also said he put his family first.

“He was always there for his kids, no matter what,” Keith Tso said.

The soldier’s father, Clifford Yazzie, said after the memorial that so much community support surprised him.

“It’s special,” he said, looking at the packed meeting room. “That’s what makes us strong; this is what keeps us up. I love them all for doing all this.”

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