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Navajo Code Talkers honored with memorial at county building
Inscriptions of unbreakable code featured on granite monument
AZTEC — A large crowd gathered today outside the San Juan County administration building here to honor the Navajo Code Talkers during the dedication and unveiling of a new memorial.
In his opening remarks, County Executive Officer Kim Carpenter said the Code Talkers are "a legacy that is forever going to be a part of our heritage and our nation's heritage."
The speeches during the ceremony were delivered in English, Navajo and Jicarilla Apache.
Navajo Code Talker John Kinsel Sr. of Lukachukai, Ariz., removed the veil from the large granite monument that includes inscriptions of the unbreakable Navajo code that was used to help win World War II. While Kinsel was the only living Navajo Code Talker who attended the ceremony, the families of about a dozen other Navajo Code Talkers attended the dedication.
Anne Tso, whose late husband Samuel Tso was a Navajo Code Talker, said attending the ceremony was hard for her family.
"I sit there and wonder what he would have said," she said.
Tso said she is appreciative of those who remember her husband and other Code Talkers.
Helena George, the daughter of Navajo Code Talker William George, said her father would have been proud of the memorial. She said he always told her that he had gone to war to protect his people and his country.
"Their warrior spirit must have been greatly aroused when they were told the country, our people and our land were under attack," said Ron Kinsel, the son of John Kinsel.
County Commissioner Wallace Charley said he hopes the monument at the county building will inspire the state government to have one built at the Capitol in Santa Fe. He said he hopes a monument in Santa Fe could inspire U.S. lawmakers to have one built in Washington, D.C., and displayed alongside other memorials dedicated to veterans.
"The Navajo Nation was called to serve the United States," Charley said. "Contributed a very precious language never before used this way."
He said a group of young men from the local area volunteered their service to help win the war.
"They were grandchildren of the holy people, as it turns out, and also they were spiritually protected," Charley said.
Before he unveiled the monument, John Kinsel told the audience about the Navajo code. He said if the unit needed a bomb, the Code Talkers would say, "Bring in some eggs." John Kinsel said the code for aircraft was bird carrier. Some of the code is inscribed on the monument in front of the county building.
While John Kinsel knew the Navajo language before he enlisted, he said he had to learn about the machines and weapons used during the war. He reminded the audience that the Navajo Code Talkers are very important people.
"It's gradually fading away," he said about the Code Talkers, noting that there are fewer than a dozen left.
"Each year, we continue to lose Navajo Code Talkers as they age and move on from this world," Navajo Nation Council Speaker LoRenzo Bates said.
Former Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. focused on unity during his speech.
"We have defeated despotism, greed and the belief that there is superiority over another," he said. "We have defeated by standing together, and we have to continue to stand together to protect our freedoms, our livelihood and certainly our motherland."
Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at email@example.com.