WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) delivered a speech on the Senate floor to honor the life and service of Chester Nez, the last of the original 29 Navajo Code Talkers who passed away last Wednesday. Mr. Nez, and 28 other Navajo Code Talkers, helped develop a code using their Native language which played an integral role in the Allied victory in World War II.
Below are Senator Heinrich's remarks as prepared for delivery:
Madam President, it's an honor to join my colleague from New Mexico, Senator Tom Udall, in celebrating the life and service of Chester Nez, the last of the original 29 Navajo Code Talkers, who passed away this last Wednesday.
And to honor the historic role the Native American Code Talkers played in the Allied victory in World War II.
Our nation's liberties and patriotic spirit were personified by the commitment, and service and the legacy of Chester Nez.
He was a true American hero.
Chester Nez helped to create an unbreakable code during World War II. He served in the United States Marine Code to protect the nation, and also his people, language and culture.
He understood the significance and the importance of his language and used it as a shield to defend this very nation.
Chester Nez chose to enlist in the Marines at a young age not knowing that he would become part of an elite group of indigenous code talkers.
Despite growing up in an era where speaking the Navajo language was, not only prohibited but often punished, his fluency in both Navajo and English made him invaluable to the war effort.
He was a member of the all-Navajo 382nd Marine Platoon entrusted to create a code that would prove impenetrable to the Japanese.
The 382nd Marine Platoon literally changed the course of history.
After Chester Nez's service, he continued to remain silent about his instrumental role as a Navajo Code Talker, maintaining a quiet, modest and humble lifestyle until the mission was declassified in 1968.
Later in life, Mr. Nez shared his contributions and his experiences in World War II with younger generations.
He advocated for keeping that, -- the Navajo language, its traditions, and its culture alive so that future generations would know how influential the Navajo people and language were during World War II.
Thanks to Mr. Nez and his fellow Code Talkers, our nation's remarkable spirit continues to thrive and we are forever grateful for their service.
I join all New Mexicans, Madam President, in keeping Chester Nez's family, friends in our thoughts and prayers.