Clockwise from top left: Chester Nez, John Kinsel Sr. (Courtesy Tom Grier/Navajo Oral History Project), Kee Etsicitty (Courtesy nativepeople.org), and Joe Vandever (Courtesy nativepeople.org)

Honoring 4 Navajo Code Talkers on National Navajo Code Talker Day

Vincent Schilling
8/14/15

In honor of National Code Talker Day – a day created by an executive order by President Ronald Reagan in 1982, here are four Navajo Code Talkers, to include videos of their stories as collected by students of Winona State University (Winona, Minnesota) and Diné College (Tsaile, Arizona, Navajo Nation) during the summer of 2013.

Chester Nez

A member of the 1st division, Marine Corps' 382nd Platoon and one of the original 29 code talkers, Chester Nez was once punished for speaking the Navajo language at Fort Defiance as a young boy. As a teenager he was sent out to Guadalcanal in 1942, where he explained to CNN’s Larry King, “I never expected to see such suffering.”

In Nez’s own words, "When bombs dropped, generally we code talkers couldn't just curl up in a shelter… We were almost always needed to transmit information, to ask for supplies and ammunition, and to communicate strategies. And after each transmission, to avoid Japanese fire, we had to move."

Discharged in 1945, Nez later volunteered to fight in the Korean War. He passed away in 2014, the last of the original Navajo Code Talkers.

RELATED: Last of Original 29 Code Talkers Remembered for Courage and Humility

Kee Etsicitty

A member of the 3rd division, Marine Corps Kee Etsicitty joined in 1945. As a code talker, he served in the battles of Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima and Guam. Etsicitty, a native of the Navajo reservation, recently walked on this past July 21st, in honor Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye ordered all flags across the Navajo Nation to be flown at half-staff.

Joe Vandever

A member of the 4th division of Marine Corps Code Talkers, Joe Vandever was assigned with the Navy and traveled on 16 different ships and saw combat action on a plethora of South Pacific Islands in WWII. Today, Vandever serves his Dine’ people as Medicine man.

John Kinsel, Sr.

Born in 1921, John Kinsel, Sr. was in high school when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. After he graduated high school he enlisted in the Marines to serve as one of the 3rd divisions Navajo Code Talkers from 1942-1945.

During his service, Kinsel says no one knew what he was assigned to do. “Not even the Navajo nation knew.”

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