Peshlakai family helps out a DUI checkpoint

(Times photo - Donovan Quintero)

A woman is given a field sobriety test Dec. 24 during Operation Arrowhead on State Highway 264 east of Window Rock.


By Cindy Yurth
Tséyi' Bureau

CHINLE, Jan. 6, 2011

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It wasn't the way most people would have wanted to spend Christmas Eve, out in the cold at a DUI checkpoint.

But for Darlene Peshlakai, it was "another step in our healing process."

Slideshow

 Operation Arrowhead

Peshlakai, who lost daughters Deshauna, 17 and Del Lynn, 19, to a drunk driver March 6, said nobody heckled her as she and her family handed out Mothers Against Drunk Drivers ribbons at the checkpoint near Tse Bonito, N.M.

"The majority of the drivers were very courteous," Peshlakai said. "I watched what they did with the ribbons. Most of them put them on their antenna or their dash. Nobody threw it away in anger. Some people even asked for more."

Of course, it's possible people recognized her, as she was wearing a shirt with Deshauna's and Del Lynn's picture on it.

"I didn't tell people who I was, but the girls are pretty well-known now," she said.

Peshlakai said she volunteered at the checkpoint at the suggestion of first lady Vikki Shirley, who also lost a daughter in a drunk driving crash.

"It was really interesting to be on that side of a checkpoint," she said. "I'll never be a smarty pants to the cops again."




Peshlakai said the police didn't catch any drunk drivers that night, but they did confiscate a lot of booze.

"The officers explained the process and the different tests they give to see if people have been drinking," she said. "Somehow, it helped me to know more about drunk driving and what the police are doing about it."

Peshlakai said she hopes seeing her there made drivers think twice about drinking that cold night.

" If it saved even one life, I would be so grateful," she said. "If sharing the effects of losing our two babies can help another family, then our suffering isn't for nothing."

Prior to setting up the checkpoint, part of a holiday booze sting dubbed "Operation Arrowhead," an officer on patrol nabbed none other than President Joe Shirley Jr. doing 72 mph in a 55 zone, and wrote him a ticket.

This may or may not explain why Shirley, who reportedly was supposed to be volunteering at the checkpoint alongside the Peshlakais, sent a representative from his office instead. Shirley's spokesman, George Hardeen, did not return an e-mail by press time Wednesday.

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