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Navajo Code Talker Day

by Kianna Joe


With only three code talkers remaining, organizers of the Navajo Code Talkers Day festivities are determined to show proper respect and recognition to these legendary war heroes.

On Monday, Aug. 14, Navajo Code Talkers Day will be celebrated in Window Rock with an honorary recognition ceremony followed by various events.

The day composes a parade, an honor run by NavajoYES, a welcome address, speakers, descendants exhibit, and gourd dancing.

Honoring the code

Regan Hawthorne is one of the key organizers of the Navajo Code Talker Day event. He is a descendant of a Navajo Code Talker, the late Roy Hawthorne, who saw action in Okinawa.

Hawthorne said participants in the day’s events range from the Ganado Primary School Princess to the Navajo president, plus a United States Department of Defense presentation in honor of the Navajo Code Talkers.

Without confirmation yet, Hawthorne said he and the other organizing crew hope to see government leaders from New Mexico and Arizona in attendance, too. “The president instructed his staff and department to make sure that there was no need unmet to put on the celebration for the Navajo Code Talkers, so we’ve got a big day planned,” said Hawthorne.

According to Hawthorne, one particular reason to look forward to this year’s event is the concerted effort to highlight the three remaining Navajo Code Talkers. These three warriors are the last of approximately 420 Navajo Marines trained as Navajo Code Talkers.

John Kinsel Sr. of Lukachukai, Arizona, Thomas H. Begaye, who currently lives in Window Rock but is originally from Chéch’iltah, New Mexico; and Peter MacDonald Sr. (originally from T’iis Názbąs) of Tuba City are the last of the prestigious group of soldiers. Kinsel and Begaye won’t be able to attend the event in person. However, MacDonald and his family will be in attendance.

Hawthorne said that the three code talkers will be given a personal introduction by former U.S. Marine Sgt. Gilbert James.

“We hold our breath looking forward to next year’s celebration, so I want to encourage everybody who considers the Navajo Code Talkers as heroes. I want them to come out and celebrate this particular occasion to honor the three remaining code talkers,” said Hawthorne.

Support from Navajo Nation

With immense support from the Navajo Nation government, Hawthorne said it’s a wonderful feeling because he’s the proud son of a Navajo Code Talker, and he gets to see the tribal government actually take action on something that has only been expressed in words for so long.

Similarly, Terri Yazzie got involved with organizing the parade for Navajo Code Talker Day as she is also a descendant of two code talkers, Samuel Tso, and Eddie Draper III.

Yazzie and her older sister needed to get involved with the event because, like Hawthorne, they realized there were only three remaining Navajo Code Talkers.

Yazzie remembers her grandfather Tso talking about the war, his experience, and even his trip back to Iwo Jima and Pearl Harbor after the war ended.

Three weeks ago, Yazzie had the opportunity to visit Pearl Harbor, where she could bring to life some of the many stories her grandfather told her.

“He always taught us to carry his legacy on, and now it’s just us descendants. This means a lot to me because, me being out here, off the reservation, a lot of people acknowledge my grandfather and the code talkers, and growing up, I never acknowledged it,” she said. “And when I was young, my grandfather said teach our kids Navajo, go to school, do better, and this is the reason why.”

As of the press deadline, the location for all the events will be at the Navajo Nation Veterans Memorial Park in Window Rock, and not the Window Rock Fairgrounds as initially planned.

Yazzie and Hawthorne feel this year is important as the hundreds of Navajo Code Talkers have dwindled to just the remaining three older Navajo gentlemen.

Yazzie said it’s essential to carry on their legacy and stories as they took the initiative to leave home as young men and sign up with the military during World War II because they wanted to protect Dinétah and Diné.

“All this, it’s all coming together, and I think it’s going to be beautiful. I’m excited. I can’t wait to be out there with everyone. I want everyone to feel a part of the day. Even the ones who may not be descendants can still honor the legacy of the code talkers. I’m just so excited. I can’t wait,” said Yazzie.

For more information, contact Regan Hawthorne at (505) 870-5019; or visit the website at:

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