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‘A true Navajo and American hero:’ Joe Vandever Sr., Navajo code talker, dies at 96

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Joe Vandever Sr.

WIDOW ROCK, Ariz. — Joe Vandever Sr., a Navajo code talker, died Friday, Jan. 31 at the age of 96 in Haystack, New Mexico.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said he was born into the Red Running Into the Water People clan.

Vandever Sr. enlisted in the Marines in 1943. He enlisted in Santa Fe March 26, 1943 and was discharged with the rank of corporal on Jan. 22, 1946. He served in combat in Window Rock, Ariz, the norther Solomon Islands, Bougainville, Emirau Islands, Guam, Marianas Islands, Okinawa, Ryukyus Islands, Occupation of Japan, and Occupation of China.

His wife of 73 years, Bessie D. Vandever, passed away Sept. 24, 2019. The couple was married for 73 years.

Joe Vandever Sr. was survived by a large family, including 55 great-grandchildren.

The United States Military used the Navajo language during World War II to communicate in a way the enemy couldn’t understand.

“We received word that we lost a true Navajo and American hero, Navajo Code Talker Joe Vandever Sr.” said Speaker Seth Damon with the 24th Navajo Nation Council in a news release. “Godspeed to him during his next journey.”

“It is disheartening news to hear of the loss of another Navajo Nation and U.S. national war hero,” said 24th Navajo National Council Chairman Daniel Tso in the release. “Fellow Navajo Code Talkers relayed stores of hero Joe Vandever Sr. orating protection prayers for all while in the field of battle. This is truly a value: thinking of protecting one’s fellow Navajo. Godspeed, hero Joe Vandever Sr.”

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