The last Navajo Code Talker, Chester Nez, USMC died on 10 November 2014, the 239th birthday of the Corps. They played a vital role during WWII.
Marine veteran Michael Smith wept Wednesday when he heard about the death of Chester Nez, the last of the original Navajo Code Talkers.
Smith, from Window Rock, who had met Nez several times, described him as a “quiet, humble” Navajo Marine.
Smith said that the passing of Nez — the last of the first 29 Navajo men who created a code from their language that stumped the Japanese in World War II — marked the closure of a chapter in the story of a special group of veterans.
Nez died Wednesday morning in Albuquerque, where he lived with his son Michael. He was 93. His family said he died of kidney failure.
“It’s the chapter about the first Navajo Code Talkers coming to a close,” said Smith, 52, whose late father was also a Code Talker, but not one of the original group. “People talk about it, and you never think it’s going to happen in your lifetime. They are carrying the past with them.
“To see this in a lifetime, it’s sad. I hope it makes us (Navajo people) stronger.”
Other Navajo veterans echoed Smith’s words in the Navajo language, saying Nez “baa hane’ yée éí t’áá kódiíji’ bíighah silíí’,” his life story ends here.
Smith said that creating the code “was a unit effort. As Marines we are all one. We fight as one with the tools that we are given.” [A good approach to life. ‘rah.]
The Code Talkers
Nez grew up in the tiny New Mexico Navajo community of Chi Chil Tah, in Jones Ranch, N.M.
Nez was attending the Tuba City Boarding School when the U.S. Marines came looking for young boys to help in World War II. Nez, in an interview three years ago, told The Arizona Republic he signed on with other friends because they were eager for an adventure that would allow them to see what was on the other side of the buttes.
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