Navajo Nation President: Navajo Code Talker George Willie Courageously Defended Our Freedom

Code Talker George B. Willie participated in parades.

Published December 6, 2017

WINDOW ROCK – The Navajo Nation has suffered a tragic loss in the passing of George P. Willie Sr., a Navajo Code Talker, 2nd Marine Division who served from 1943 to 1946.

According to his family, Willie passed away on Tuesday, Dec. 5 at 9:45 a.m., at his home in Leupp, Arizona.

Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye with Code Talker WIllie

“I remember George P. Willie as a kind father and grandfather who held his service with pride and dignity,”Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye said. “Like many of our Code Talkers, Willie enlisted into the military at a young age and went on to courageously defend our freedom and liberty as the United States of America.”

Vice President Jonathan Nez said that Willie’s death comes at a time when the Nation is reminded of the importance of the Navajo language, and that it must be handed down and taught to our younger generations.

“The U.S. government’s use of the Navajo language saved this country during World War II. This is a prime example of the strength and resiliency that George P. Willie displayed,” Vice President Nez said. “We are grateful and remember him as a man willing to stand his ground in the face of danger. We salute Navajo Code Talker Willie as a Marine, a father and as a hero to the Navajo Nation.”

Because their service was classified by the military up until 1968, Willie, like many other Code Talkers, didn’t discuss his service often. His daughter Annabelle Smallcanyon said he eventually opened up about being a Code Talker but remained a bit guarded about what he told.

Code Talker George B. Willie salutes flag.

“He kept to himself but after going to his first meeting with the Navajo Code Talkers, he was able to open up. I was then able to talk with him about it,” she said. “Later on as people would come up to shake his hand, he would stand tall and feel proud about his service as a Code Talker.”

He always stood tall to salute the flag, his daughter said.

As he grew older, Willie developed dementia which took a toll on his health as it severely affected his sleep. Smallcanyon said Willie was released from the hospital on Dec. 4 to be sent home for hospice care.

“The dementia brought him down a lot,” she said.

Willie is survived by his wife Emma Jean and five of his ten children.

“Our condolences go out to the family of Navajo Code Talker George P. Willie. In his service to the U.S., he protected the great Navajo Nation. We should follow his lead in remaining vigilant toward defending our Nation,” President Begaye said. “For his bravery and courage as a Navajo Code Talker, we say Semper Fi, Marine. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family at this time.”

Willie’s funeral service is planned to be held on Monday, Dec. 11 at the Leupp Presbyterian Church at 10 a.m. Viewing will be held at 9 a.m. Greers Mortuary in Winslow is handing burial arrangements. Willie’s burial services will be held at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Park at Camp Navajo in Bellemont, Arizona.

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