KYKOTSMOVI, Ariz. - The bronze plaque honoring the eight Hopi code talkers who served in World War II has finally arrived, and preparations are under way to dedicate it today during a Veterans Day observance at the Hopi Veterans Memorial Center.
"I'm thrilled to have it in hand. It looks beautiful," stated Eugene Talas, director of the Office of Hopi Veterans Services. The plaque eventually will be mounted on the "Wall of Honor" at the veterans memorial.
The plaque says, in part, "The Hopi Tribe pays tribute and recognition to the remarkable achievements of these eight Hopi code talkers whose own Hopi language confounded the Japanese and contributed to the liberation of the South Pacific islands and final victory against the military forces of the Empire of Japan in World War II."
It also notes that the bold action of the code talkers, "exemplifies the courage, bravery and spirit of America's fighting men."
Today's Veterans Day event will be held from 10 a.m-2 p.m. Between 300 and 500 people are expected at the memorial located on state Highway 264, about two miles east of Kykotsmovi.
Representatives from families of each of the code talkers will be on hand and will receive small replicas of the large plaque. Talas said he hopes Travis Yaiva, the last surviving Hopi code talker, will be able to attend.
Other scheduled guests include U.S. Army Reserve Col. John Boyd, from the 81st Regional Support Command at Fort Jackson, S.C., who will offer remarks on behalf of the 81st Command, and then dedicate the plaque.
After the dedication, there will be a special recognition of women veterans, featuring guest speakers Lt. Col. Mary Williams-Lynch, garrison commander of the Camp Navajo Army National Guard base near Flagstaff, and Pam Rodriguez from the Department of Veterans Services.
Miss Hopi Junell Puhuyesva also will talk about the upcoming "bundles of love" care package drive that will take place before Valentine's Day.
Talas said the care packages will be sent to service members stateside and overseas, and contain such items as toiletries, cookies, pinons, sunflower seeds and cornmeal, to give service members a little taste of home.
In September the Hopi Tribal Council approved $50,000 for the bronze plaques and renovation of the Hopi veterans "Wall of Honor."
Eventually, 12 separate bronze plaques will honor all Hopi veterans who served honorably in World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the Gulf wars, as well as in peacetime. They will replace six existing plaques and will add new names of about 270 veterans to total 674.
Included in the approval was the cost of renovating and enlarging the existing "Wall of Honor" so more plaques may be added in the future, and so it would withstand the elements for 25 years.
"Their (veterans) sacrifice and devotion to duty needs to be recognized," Talas had told the council when seeking money for the project.