Disabled Navajo Military Descendent Receives Quality of Life Boost

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Donnell Schroeter
  • 377th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Alvin Malone grew up idolizing his father and uncles for their service during World War II. Their service to the United States has been a legacy and heritage the Malone family carried with pride for decades. Now decades later, they are receiving a gift that will drastically increase their quality of life. As a result of the partnership between the Department of Defense and the Southwest Indian Foundation, the Malone family will receive a brand-new home built from the ground up on the Navajo Nation in Gallup, New Mexico.

When construction concludes in mid-June 2024, the Malone family will be given the keys to a 1,136 square-foot handicap-accessible three-bedroom and one-bathroom single-family home. This home is being built on-site using modern building materials and technologies by military engineers and builders.

The Malones currently reside in a home that WWII veteran Richard Malone built himself on the same plot of land their new home is being built on. Alvin Malone, the son of Richard lives in this home, but it does not currently suit basic needs and his woefully inadequate for his special needs.

During the COVID pandemic Alvin Malone was diagnosed with a debilitating skeletal-muscular condition that severely limits his mobility. After his condition took effect, he has relied on his family for daily needs. This is a challenge for Alvin as the High Desert is not the most forgiving place to live, especially for someone with his physical limitations.

The new home will be equipped with accessibility features that will completely change Alvin’s quality of life. He sees this new home as a blessing, he never expected to receive such a gift from total strangers.

“I would like to thank them,” said Malone. “It’s god’s gift what they did for me. It’s hard to put into words, sometimes I get emotional.”

Seven members of the Malone family, including Alvin’s father Richard, served in WWII. Richard Malone, Ray Malone and Cousin James Belone served in the Army. Four family members served in the Marine Corps and were also Navajo Code Talkers, they include Max Malone, Rex Malone, Robert Malone as well as Cousin Harry Belone Sr., all seven returned to Gallup after the war. Through this tradition of service, it instilled in Alvin at a young age that freedom isn’t free, and thanks to the sacrifices of the Malone family, they are receiving this blessing at a time when it is needed the most.

The home project was originally awarded to Alvin’s father Richard Malone, a WWII Army Veteran, who served under Lieutenant General George S. Patton from his march from North Africa, Sicily, Southern France and into the Rhineland of Germany. Shortly after the project groundbreaking in 2018, Richard Malone passed away at 100 years-old and the project went dormant until Alvin Malone qualified per SWIF selection criteria. Unfortunately, just as the project was set to resume, it hit another stopping point when the COVID pandemic put the Navajo Nation into lockdown. Now, after years of waiting, construction was able to resume on April 21, 2024.

Navy Seabees from the Naval Construction Battalion 25, Naval Construction Battalion 22, and Airmen from the 567th Rapid Engineer Deployable, Heavy Operational Repair Squadron, Engineer (RED HORSE) Squadron were deployed to the Navajo Nation at the end of April to resume construction.

Construction is being led by the 25 with assistance from the NMCB 22 and the 567th RED HORSE Squadron.

Navy Seabee Construction Mechanic 2nd class Justin Hemphill, who is a Journeyman Electrician in his civilian capacity, served as the electrical lead on this project sees value, not only in the learning opportunity, but the opportunity to give back to those who served before him.

“A big part of it is training, getting on the job experience, learning the different aspects of what goes into a new build, as well as working with the Southwest Indian Foundation providing homes for veterans or families of veterans.” stated Hemphill.

This housing project has been made possible by a partnership between the Southwest Indian Foundation and the Department of Defense’s Innovative Readiness Training program. IRT is a joint military training opportunity exclusive to the United States and its territories that aims to increase deployment readiness by providing key services such as health care, construction, transportation and cyber-security to American communities. Additionally, the IRT program also provides valuable real-world training to service members who may go on to implement these skills when deployed or possibly as a civilian in the future.

The Southwest Indian Foundation was founded in 1968 by Fr. Dunstan Schmidlin with the goal of alleviating poverty and unemployment affecting Native Americans of the Southwest. SWIF has worked with members of the Navajo, Zuni, Hopi, Laguna, Acoma and Apache tribes to provide self-help initiatives and charitable donations. According to Former Navajo Nation President Kelsey Begay, the Navajo Reservation is 20,000 housing units short of actual capacity. The goal of SWIFT is to provide safe and decent housing to families and individuals who are unable obtain a home without outside assistance, such as the Malone Family.