America is built upon diversity. We have proven that when we work together and rely on each other’s unique talents, perspectives, and strengths, we succeed. Unity does not translate to sameness. We fall short and weaken our communities when we forget the beauty of our diversity. In celebration of our freedoms and differences, I wanted to share my gratitude and appreciation for the WWII Navajo Code Talkers.
Navajo Code Talkers
During World War II, the government started recruiting Navajo men to help them create a military code using the unique and unwritten language of the Navajo People. The National World War II Museum estimates that 375 to 420 Navajos served as Code Talkers (2017).
Navajo Code Talkers designed the code and transmitted it error-free. Since the Navajo Code Talkers were part of a top-secret program, they were sworn to secrecy. They were not even allowed to tell their families about the work they did. Eric Levenson’s article, The Incredible Story of the Navajo Code Talkers that Got Lost in All the Politics, published by CNN, describes how the Navajo Code Talkers would quickly transmit secret messages over the radio to get supplies, and ammunition, communicate strategies or ask for help (2017). Javec writes that when the war was over, Japan’s Chief of Intelligence admitted this was the only code they were never able to break (2001). Their service proved to be invaluable in battles fought in World War II. The Navajo Code Talker program was declassified in 1968, but they did not receive recognition for their service until 2001 (2017).
The ironic thing about these men is that as children, the government forced them to attend boarding schools where they were beaten, shamed, or starved for speaking their language. This was an effort to assimilate Native children into American society. What the American Government saw as a weakness was a source of strength and an advantage for our nation.
The Navajo Code Talkers taught me there is nothing more powerful than being who you are. You are needed, as you are. You are valuable, as you are. Unity is born when we celebrate our own uniqueness and that of others.
National Public Radio highlighted the speech by Peter MacDonald, president of the last surviving Navajo Code Talkers,
“America we know is composed of a diverse community. We have different skills, different talents, and different religions… When we come together as one, we are invincible.”
You can’t have a choir with all sopranos, nor can you have a football team with 11 quarterbacks. We each have a part to play. We are each valued, and more importantly, we are each needed.
In honor of Independence Day, I want to recognize the Code Talkers. They fought for freedoms they did not always get to practice. Thank you for your bravery and service. Thank you for showing us what resiliency and authenticity look like. May we all have the bravery to practice such attributes and create unity as we recognize the strength and power that comes from our differences.
American Indian Code Talkers. (2017, August 14). The National World War II Museum
Javec, A. (2001, Winter). “Semper Fidelis, Code Talkers.” Prologue Magazine, 33(4).
Levenson, E. (2017, November 29). The Incredible Story of the Navajo Code Talkers that Got Lost in All the Politics. CNN.
Van Sant, S. (2019, May 12). World War II Veteran and Navajo Code Talker Fleming Begay Sr. Dies at 97. National Public Radio.