TONALEA-As the sun rose so began the honor devoted to those of the Tonalea community who led and contributed to the battles of the U.S. militaries.
"We know it has been recognized all over the world, and we wanted to do it locally," Tonalea Chapter president Steven Arizana explained. "We wanted to recognize the Code Talkers at the Chapter level."
The Western Navajo Code Talkers Appreciation Day honored not only the WWII Code Talkers, but Tonalea veterans of all wars.
To open the Aug. 25 ceremonies held at the Tonalea Chapter House, the flags were raised with the sun. Next, Miss Tonalea Calstina Tohannie sang the National Anthem, which was followed by a moment of prayer and silence.
Code Talker Keith Little, 4th Marine Division shared his memories of his duty as a WWII mastermind. He also explained the history of the Code Talkers and their experiences as WWII veterans.
"It was good for him to return to the Tonalea area to talk about his war stories," Arizana said.
Also during the ceremony, Tazbah Elthie sang the Flag Song and her father Gary Elthie contributed the Honor Song to remember those veterans who have passed.
Tazbah explained the song.
"It's about a rainbow that's on the Navajo Nation Flag," she said. "I was really excited to sing it."
"The Honor Song is a way to remember them-to appreciate them," Arizana said.
Later in the event, Yodah Billah, a WWII U.S. Army veteran and code talker spoke, as did Morris Chee, a Korean War vet.
In total, approximately 100 community members attended with veterans of multiple U.S. wars and duties.
"It was a good reminder of what they went through," Arizana said.
The event coordinators hope to continue the appreciation day annually and increase the number of veterans and guests each year.