A few months ago, the staff here at N&F kicked around the idea of doing a series on American exceptionalism (our Hardnox’s idea). It would give us a way to acknowledge Americans who have done exceptional things that made a difference for our country. It would be a way to inject more good-news stories into our everyday lives already filled with the grumbles of today’s politics and the distaste of a government gone rogue.
One day, while having a conversation with my good friend & commenter WTXGunrunner, I told him about our project and he said “I already have someone in mind. I’ll write it up, you add some pictures, do whatever.’ Well, we did just that. So grab a cup of coffee and prepare to read about Americans, one in particular, who definitely ‘made a huge difference’ in America’s history.
Your people have been in this country for hundreds of years, they were all born here and yet they aren’t fully fledged citizens of their country. They don’t have the right to vote at this time.
You grow up on Indian land that is sacred to your people. This is the 1920s in America’s Navajo Reservation. As you grow up, you don’t even know exactly what your birth date is. That will later be assigned to you in kindergarten, as will your English name.
You grow up proud of who you are, who your people are, and very proud of your country. As you enter the school system, you are told to never speak your native tongue. If you do, and get caught, your mouth would be washed out with homemade soap. This continues on into boarding school at Fort Defiance.
You might ask yourself how someone like this could have pride in being an American. Yet, they did. As the year 1941 arrives and then exits as it did, this young man and his friends wanted to know what they could do to help America after Pearl Harbor.
At his boarding school a Marine recruiter shows up and is most impressive to this young man. He and several of his friends enlist into the Marine Corps, where they go to a post in Arizona and then onto training in California.
This young man, along with 28 of his friends and fellow Navajo members, are formed into the 382nd Marine Platoon. In case you aren’t familiar with that particular platoon, and most people are not, don’t feel bad. This is the platoon that formed the Navajo Code Talkers.
These initial 29 men devised the code system used in the Pacific from 1942 until the end of the war in 1945. They developed the entire code based on their native language, yes the very language they were forbidden to speak at a younger age. Using the (unpublished) Navajo language made this code so successful that the Japanese never broke it.
It let the US forces communicate with impunity, never having to worry that the enemy would be able to decipher it. All of this tremendous work was done by our Native Americans, and if you are wondering who this story is about, his name is Chester Nez. Of the initial 29 members, he is the lone surviving Code Talker.
From his humble beginnings, greatness emerged and helped to win the war in the Pacific Theater. This is but one story of ordinary people, Americans, doing exceptional things.
J’o ako téé’go nise báá
“That’s my journey to war and back.”
Thank you, Corporal Chester Nez for your amazing service to this country, and thank you WTX for bringing his story to us.