Young Marine Sgt Maj Blake DeWeese, National Young Marine of the Year, presents a flag to the Navajo Code Talkers on National Navajo Code Talkers Day in Window Rock, AZ.
WINDOW ROCK, ARIZONA — Two hundred twenty three members of the Young Marines including registered adult leaders traveled to Window Rock, Arizona to be part of Navajo Code Talkers Day which was Thursday, August 14.
Seventeen veteran Navajo Code Talkers attended.
Every year since 2006, Young Marines from across the country gather in Window Rock to honor and give praise to the Navajo Code Talkers from WWII. The Young Marines’ theme for 2014 was, “Treasure the Legacy.”
“It was a privilege to educate the Young Marines about the role of the Navajo Code Talkers and give them the opportunity to meet these living heroes,” said Michael Smith, coordinator of Navajo Code Talker Day and son of Samuel Smith, Navajo Code Talker.
The Young Marines not only met Code Talkers, they acted as escorts for the very special veterans. They cleaned up Veteran’s Memorial Park, attended a class about the Code Talkers, set up flags and marched in the Navajo Nation parade, provided gifts for the Navajo Code Talkers and their wives and visited the Navajo Nation Zoo and the Navajo Museum.
The Young Marines planned and ran a 5K fundraising run which made $3,000. The monies are designated to help pay for Code Talker funerals.
“Navajo Code Talkers Day was an incredibly humbling experience,” said YM/SgtMaj Blake DeWeese, National Young Marine of the Year, 2014-2015. “It provided a vivid depiction of the sacrifice and hardship the Navajo faced. We all had a greater appreciation of people as strong as the Navajo.”
The following Young Marines units were represented by attendees:
Temecula Valley – Winchester, CA
Carroll County – Westminster, MD
Southland – Montclair, CA
Desert – Glendale, AZ
Southeast County – Seal Beach, CA
Columbia River – Kennewick, WA
Guadalupe Valley – Geronimo, TX
Bakersfield – Bakersfield, CA
Camp Pendleton – Camp Pendleton, CA
Emerald Coast – Crestview, FL
Columbus – Columbus, IN
Fall River – Fall River, MA
Seaford – Seaford, DE
Flat Irons – Thornton, CO
North Idaho – Hayden, ID
Pueblo – Pueblo, CO
Pikes Peak – Colorado Springs, CO
Hamilton – Nottingham, MD
Colfax County – Raton, NM
Swansboro – Cedar Point, NC
Douglas County – Aurora, CO
LCPL Caleb Powers – Fredericksburg, VA
Tornado Alley – Wichita, KS
Rattlesnake Reservoir – Loveland, CO
Poudre River – Greeley, CO
Tustin – Costa Mesa, CA
Mountain View – Highlands Ranch, CO
Colorado Springs – Colorado Springs, CO
“It’s rare to meet people who have had such an impact on our lives,” said Brenda McNulty, registered adult leader, Mountain View unit of the Young Marines and organizer of the event. “These men are more than just WWII heroes. They are dear friends to the Young Marines.”
In fact, McNulty heard a very meaningful compliment: If it weren’t for the Young Marines, the Code Talkers would be forgotten.
“Speaking with some of the Code Talkers was a valuable experience that the Young Marines will cherish for years to come,” DeWeese said. “Everyone came away with a story to tell and an experience upon which to reflect.”
Cipher machines, or machines that create coded messages, did not work well in the jungles of the Pacific Islands during World War II. However, the United States military needed coded messages to send secret information from the battle lines to air bases and other locations. Native Americans who spoke the Navajo language helped solve this problem.
The Navajo “Code Talkers,” as they became known, used English code words that they translated into their language to send messages. The Japanese military could hear these coded messages, but they could not understand their meanings. The Navajo language was not well known.
The Navajo Code Talkers served in some of the fiercest battles of the Pacific. They saved many lives and helped the United States and its allies win the war. However, the Code Talkers were never allowed to discuss their work with anyone. Most Americans did not know about the Code Talkers’ role in World War II until much later.
The Navajo Code Talkers’ contributions to the U.S. military during World War II became better known with the release of the 2002 movie, “Windtalkers,” starring Nicolas Cage. Although the movie received mixed reviews, it exposed the public to World War II’s Native American heroes.
For their bravery and service, President Ronald Reagan set aside a special day to honor the Navajo Code Talkers. In 1982, he declared August 14 to be National Navajo Code Talkers Day.
The Young Marines is a national non-profit 501c(3) youth education and service program for boys and girls, age eight through the completion of high school. The Young Marines promotes the mental, moral and physical development of its members. The program focuses on teaching the values of leadership, teamwork and self-discipline so its members can live and promote a healthy, drug-free lifestyle.
Since the Young Marines’ humble beginnings in 1959 with one unit and a handful of boys, the organization has grown to over 300 units with 11,000 youth and 3,000 adult volunteers in 46 states, the District of Columbia, Germany, Japan and affiliates in a host of other countries.