By Mary Shinn, News21
Church Rock, N.M. — Maurco Ambrose lost his way in life after he left the Army and went home to the Navajo Nation, but he found new direction through meditative ceremonies.
Ambrose enlisted in 2005 when he was 17 and spent five years with 2nd Brigade 4th Infantry Division based in Colorado Springs, Colo. and served as a cook in Iraq from 2008 to 2009. After the military’s rigorous routine, Ambrose said he had no direction, couldn’t find a job and started drinking.
“My whole world was shattered. I was lost. I didn’t know what to do so I started to make friends with the wrong people,” Ambrose said.
In the Army, he encountered a strong stigma toward admitting to any kind of post-traumatic stress or depression and Ambrose said that he never admitted needing any kind of mental help.
“Out of the blue” he attended a Blessing Way ceremony led by his father’s cousin, who is a medicine man. He enjoyed the style of singing. After two months, he asked if he could start following the medicine man he refers to as father in Navajo, out of respect.
Speaking Navajo mentally challenged him, Ambrose said. He understands reads and writes the language, but struggles to speak fluently. As he learned the songs, he began to contemplate his life.
The first 12 songs are called the Hogan songs and describe building the house, he said. It starts with a planning stage and moves through each stage including taking ownership of the house.
“The more I started asking questions about the songs and the sets that they came in, the more and more I became engaged in it. The more you learn about the song, the more you learn about yourself,” he said.
Ceremonies last all night, and that’s how Ambrose has spent many weekends over the last two years. The ceremonies have helped him plan the next steps of his life and act on them. He will start his second semester of nursing school in the fall.
The Department of Navajo Veterans Affairs reimburses Native veterans for a variety of traditional healing ceremonies and on average pays for about 300 ceremonies a year.