TUBA CITY, Ariz. - WW II veteran and Navajo Code Talker Dan Akee's wish to live in the home he built in the 1960s is coming true, slowly, with help from the community and Red Feather Development Group.
Red Feather, a nonprofit with offices in Flagstaff, Arizona and Bozeman, Montana, which partners with Native American communities to develop and implement sustainable solutions to the housing needs in their communities, has raised $16,000 in two weeks of the $70,000 goal needed to renovate Akee's home, with donations from money to materials, skilled and unskilled volunteers and meals for the workers.
A new roof, windows and exterior doors have all been installed and plans are on track to have the remaining work, which includes dry wall, bathroom and kitchen renovations and a wheel chair ramp, completed before Christmas, if donations keep coming in.
Akee's one wish on his 94th birthday, Nov. 11, which was also Veterans Day, was to move back into the house he considers his home for the remainder of his life. The house is where he and his wife Margaret raised 12 children, three kids to a room. He had to move out of that home because of a leaky roof, broken windows and no heat. Akee is in a wheelchair full time and was recently hospitalized for pneumonia.
Akee is one of 12 Navajo Code Talkers still alive in the United States. He was one of more than 44,000 Native Americans who served in the U.S. military and one of the 450 Navajo Code Talkers. He is one of three Code Talkers still alive from his regiment. Akee took part in some of the worst fighting of WWII, including tours at Marshall Islands, Saipan, Tinian and two campaigns at Iwo Jima.
"I'm finally going home," Akee said, as he saw the prayer he had been saying for years being answered right in front of his eyes as the renovation started.
With funding for only new houses, the Western Agency of the Navajo Department of Veterans Affairs reached out to partner with Red Feather to raise the money to renovate Akee's home after discovering that Akee was currently living in an unsafe situation.
"The involvement from the local community has been inspiring to see," said Mark Hall, executive director of Red Feather Development Group.
The veteran's office lent its 12-person professional home building crew and donated building materials. The Tuba City Chapter House donated building materials as well. Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye and Vice President Jonathan Nez lent their hands to helping along with member of their staff, which included several veterans. The Tuba City High School carpentry, ROTC and honor society students have all helped out too, with over 500 volunteer hours donated so far.
"So many people are helping in any way they can," said Eunice Begay, veteran service officer with the Western Agency of Navajo Veterans Affairs.
Lead foreman for the project Bradford Kaye, a graduate of Tuba City High School, is responsible for managing the crew of paid, local professionals and volunteers, managing material orders and donations and making sure everyone is safe and the work is of high quality and completed according to schedule.
"We have a lot more to do but we know what is needed and what we have to do to make the deadline," Kaye said.
Most urgent now are donations for flooring, appliances (stove and refrigerator), kitchen cabinets, lighting and plumbing fixtures.
Danny Akee, Akee's eldest son, had tears in his eyes when he saw the renovation starting to happen.
"Dad is going to get his wish because of Red Feather," he said. "I can't tell you what that means to all of us."
More information on donating can be found at the following:
Generosity.com to make a donation of any size;
Red Feather website at www.redfeather.org. Mark donations for the Dan Akee "Going Home" Project; or
the Red Feather office in Flagstaff, Arizona at (928) 440-5119 about skills to volunteer or in-kind donation of construction materials.