Sunday, March 7, 2010

"The Sands of Iwojima, Navajo Code Talkers"

I was watching the movie this weekend and it brought back a very special moment that I can remember...

During a time I was a "Funeral Director". Many times did I have my heart broken. But one time in particular, it was a completely different occasion. I had been called out in the middle of the night, which was quite often the case, to an old man's hogan out in the middle of what seemed like nowhere. When I arrived, The criminal investigators where there and also his family. The police were there only because it was what is called "an unattended death". They determined no foul play. So after several hours I was allowed to do the things I needed to do for transport, which includes waiting until the family is ready. They want to get to know you first, and that just doesn't happen right away. By the time I was ready to leave, the sun was beginning to rise. And I was met by the most beautiful scene you could imagine. After driving around in circles,so I thought, I didn't see where I was until sunrise. He lived in a hogan situated up a box canyon, with cottonwood trees, and peach colored walls on both sides with a spring flowing down one side by the canyon wall. The drive back was like a hallmark moment around every turn, I was amazed.

The family showed up sometime that afternoon. So we spent the next several hours making the short term arrangements. We didn't have to worry about tomorrow, just the next few hours is the way I put it.

After doing the things that I had to do, it was a the next day that I met with the family once more. This time all the things that were involved in the service were discussed, when and where, etc. It was at that time that I discovered that he was a "Code Talker". He also was a very respected medicine man. His life story had been revealed to me over the course of a few days.

From his boarding school days as a child, to his four wheeler that he rode because he was too old to get on his horse.

The day arrived when the family brought in the cloths that Chei would be wearing. It was his dress uniform from WWII. It still fit perfect. How many of us can say that we can wear the same cloths we wore even six months ago?

Chei was going home, and according to his son, he thought that any day was good enough. It was a beautiful service on a beautiful day. The flag had been draped on grandpa's casket, and it was time for the Color Guard to do their thing.

I was moved to tears, as was everyone else, when their handling of the flag was completed. folded and handed to his wife. Twenty one live rounds down range. Then in the stillness of the air, a drum, and a soft voice, that began to grow as the casket was being lowered. That song continued until the grave was covered up. The families up there used to say that I was the "crying man". What is meant by that is I am broken when you are broken, and what troubles you troubles me. My boss used to tell me that I shouldn't let people see me with tears in my eyes, but sometimes you just can't help it.

This man had lived a long life, full of many adventures, and his time as a "Code Talker" was one of them. People were better somehow from having known him. You know the kind. So many times I got to know people after their death through their families and friends. Some would say after it's too late. I say no. That man had an influence on me from the time I picked him up at his home.

The Navajo Code Talkers were part of history, though somewhat unknown of until recently, as they were sworn to secrecy for life in case they were needed again. God only knows what was saved or what would have been lost without them. I for one and grateful for this man's life, and his service. It was an honer and a joy to participate in the final act of love for him and his loved ones.
I am what I am



  1. Mike your story moves me and I know you as a Good "Crying Man". Better to know someone even after they've passed than never to know them at all. You are truly blessed.

  2. What a wonderful story Mike. I have heard much about the Code Talkers and what their code meant in the war. How interesting to come across someone like this but unfortunately too late to speak to him about his experiences.

  3. Mike: I remember that movie and really enjoyed it. It is great to have another story to go along with it.

  4. Tears are nothing to be ashamed of--they come when they are necessary. What a great story you have shared.