The Pueblo Chieftan

Young Marines meet code talker

Not many students get to boast they spent part of their summer vacation visiting with legendary Navajo Code Talkers of World War II fame, but 11 Pueblo Young Marines can do just that.

The Young Marines, ages 9 to 17, traveled last month from Pueblo West to Window Rock, Ariz., meeting with the veterans who are credited with developing a complex military code based on their indigenous language. The unwritten Navajo language, once adapted to code, and the Navajos who helped translate it, played an integral role in thwarting intelligence breeches by the Japanese.

“The young marines not only met code talkers, they participated for three days acting as escorts for the very special World War II veterans,” said Elida Coseri, group spokeswoman.

Navajo Code Talkers Day celebrates the role of the Navajos during World War II and the code that remained a top U.S. military secret for decades afterward.

“Young Marines from across the country have the honor of meeting these remarkable individuals and learning from living history,” Coseri said.

The event was a perfect fit for the 2013 Young Marine theme “Teaching Today’s Youth about Yesterday’s Heroes,” as they were able to meet and learn from 24 veteran Navajo Code Talkers.

“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 Talkers Day and son of Samuel Smith, a code talker.

The youth also helped clean up Veterans Memorial Park and attended a class about the Navajo Code Talkers, where they learned that a total of 420 code talkers served with the Marines during the war and could pass the memorized verbal messages in as little as 20 seconds. In addition, the youth set up flags and marched in the Navajo Nation parade as well as provided gifts for the Navajo Code Talkers and their wives.

The Navajo Nation put on a cultural class especially for the Young Marines and the youth also visited the Navajo museum and zoo. The Young Marines is a national non-profit education and service program for boys and girls which promotes the values of leadership, teamwork and self-discipline so its members can live a healthy, drug-free lifestyle.

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