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A Day with a Code Talker

A few summers ago I interviewed a Code Talker. At the time, I was prepared, but not necessarily excited. It wasn't that I didn't realize who I was interviewing, or what great deed they had done, I had done significant research and I grew up around the Navajo culture and people. The Code Talker story is well-known and I was only disappointed in the fact that it seemed the only part of Navajo history that the rest of the country knew about. I wanted to let everyone know more about the Navajo people, their culture and the loss of the language that ties them to their ancestry. My advisors and editors who lived far from Navajo land and knew only of their culture through books and film, recommend I interview a Code Talker, saying it was the only way to make my message appeal to a larger audience. I thought they were wrong, but the day I interviewed a Code Talker I learned a lot more about the Navajo people and the country they fought to protect.

With the help of Cameron Trading Post's Leland Jones, I was able to arrange an interview with Dan Akee. He was not one of the original 29 Code Talkers, but he was a Code Talker none the less. We had reserved one of the rooms to conduct the interview. Mr. Akee arrived in his full Code Talker uniform, the yellow shirt, red hat, khaki pants and turquoise jewelry. It was a beautiful blend of color. Joining him was his wife, who even on this warm day was dressed in a beautiful velveteen skirt and shirt with turquoise jewelry. This story that many had heard, was something Mr. Akee had lived and as he spoke I realized how important his story and the Code Talkers' story was. The language that was once stifled by the United States' government became one of its greatest defenses during WWII. At that point I realized that fact alone should make people want to help preserve this language.

After the interview, I had lunch with Mr. Akee and his wife. It was a typical summer day in Cameron. The store was filled with people as we wove our way to the restaurant. I watched as some people glanced at Mr. Akee, many not really knowing what his uniform symbolized. I wanted to shout out "do you know who he is and what he's done, do you understand why he proudly wears this uniform?" As if hearing my thoughts, a woman stopped and turned to him and thanked him and spoke to him like the hero he is. He kindly smiled and nodded and continued his way to the restaurant. The story I had thought had been the only story known to the American public, was known by very few or its significance not recognized. August 14th is National Code Talker Day, a day where we can honor those men like Dan Akee.