End Of An Era

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.

He was a member of the all-Navajo 382nd Marine Platoon.

“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.”

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