Navajo Code Talker uniform finds way home to Reservation

Cpl. Henry Bahe, Jr. and Pfc. George H. Kirk transmitting a radio message from Bougainville iin Dec. 1943. Submitted photo

Cpl. Henry Bahe, Jr. and Pfc. George H. Kirk transmitting a radio message from Bougainville iin Dec. 1943. Submitted photo

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. - The uniform of a Navajo hero came home in August.

After more than 15 years in limbo, the uniform of George H. Kirk, Sr., returned home and was unveiled on Aug. 14, during a ceremony at the Navajo Nation Museum in honor of Navajo Code Talkers Day.

Kirk was a Navajo Code Talker. Born on May 25, 1917, he passed on Oct. 28, 1999. He served in the 3rd Marine Division and saw combat in Bougainville, Enewetak Atoll, Guadalcanal, Guam, Iwo Jima, Johnston Islands, Mariana Islands, Marshall Islands, New Guinea, and Solomon Islands.

Kirk's Navajo Code Talker uniform and associated items were lost in 1999. They appeared on the open market for auction in late January 2014. The uniform was previously in a storage unit that went up for auction after he passed and no longer made payments.

Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly immediately contacted Craig Gottlieb, a military historian who owned the online auction house that was prepared to sell the uniform. In his letter to Gottlieb, Shelly stated the importance of its return to the Nation.

"We respectfully asked for the return of the uniform to the Navajo Nation and agreed that it be an exhibit at the Navajo Nation Museum for display to our future generations," Shelly said. "Thankfully, Mr. Gottlieb was very gracious and cooperative in the matter.

"Our Navajo Code Talkers not only put their lives on the line but they also preserved and showcased the strength of Diné bizaad, the Navajo language."

Craig Gottlieb Military Antiques, located in Solana Beach, California, was the business that had the uniform ready for auction. Major Gottlieb served in the U.S. Marine Corps and is a subject matter expert for History Channel's television show, Pawn Stars.

"It's been a long journey to get where we are and I'm excited," Gottlieb said. "As a Marine officer who grew up with words like 'ink stick' and 'go faster,' making this donation has special meaning for me."

Shelly traveled to Reno, Nevada Aug. 13 to pick up Gottlieb and the uniform for its return to the Navajo Nation.

The unveiling took place Aug. 14 at the Navajo Nation Museum after a parade from the museum to Veterans Memorial Park.

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