WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, and U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján issued the following statements celebrating the life and service of Chester Nez, the last of the original 29 Navajo Code Talkers, who died Wednesday morning, and honoring the historic role the Native American Code Talkers played in the Allied victory in World War II.
"The passing of Chester Nez is a solemn moment for the Navajo Nation, the state of New Mexico and our country, and my thoughts are with the Nez family," Udall said. "Like the code that helped win two world wars, Chester Nez's commitment to the United States was unbroken. He loved his culture and his country, and when called, he fought to protect both. And because of his service, we enjoy freedoms that have stood the test of time. As we mark Chester's passing, let us honor his memory with a renewed inspiration to preserve our Native languages, and rededicate ourselves to keeping alive the story of our Code Talkers and the patriotic spirit that has always run deep in New Mexico and our nation."
“Chester Nez was a true American hero. His bravery and service will always be remembered," Heinrich said. "Chester, along with 28 other Navajo Code Talkers, used their Native language to develop what would become one of the most indispensable tools in World War II. Serving as a Marine at a young age, Chester’s love of country and his commitment to freedom never wavered--neither did his courage. Our nation is forever in his debt. I join all New Mexicans in keeping Chester’s family and friends in our thoughts and prayers."
“My thoughts are with the Nez family as we mourn the loss of the last original Navajo Code Talker, Chester Nez. Mr. Nez grew up at a time when speaking his native Navajo was prohibited and punished, yet it did not stop him from holding on to his culture and keeping his language alive,” Luján said. “While Mr. Nez has been described as a traditionally modest and humble man who did not talk a lot, he always sought to preserve his language, and helped share the stories of the Code Talkers with younger generations of Navajos so they understand the importance of their language and are encouraged to learn it. While we are saddened by the loss of Chester Nez, we are inspired by his service to our nation and the efforts of all Navajo Code Talkers who played a critical role in World War II. We thank them for their service.”