WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — The Navajo Nation mourned the loss of Navajo Code Talker Teddy Draper Sr. and offered condolences to his family. Draper, 96, passed away shortly after 7 a.m. Dec. 14 in Prescott, Arizona.
The news of his passing came a little more than a week after the Nation lost Navajo Code Talker George B. Willie Sr. With the passing of each Code Talker, our Nation is reminded of the importance of our warriors, said a press release from the Office of the President and Vice President.
As of this time, there are 10 Navajo Code Talkers remaining.
“The Office of the Navajo Nation President and Vice President offer condolences on behalf of the Nation to the family of Code Talker Draper,” Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye said. “With the passing of each Code Talker, our Nation mourns these heroes and living treasures.”
Draper was born in Canyon Del Muerto and resided in Chinle, Arizona. He was part of the 5th Marine Division, fought in the Battle of Iwo Jima and received a Purple Heart as well as a Congressional Silver Medal.
“The Navajo Code Talkers used our language to save this country during World War II,” said Vice President Jonathan Nez. “This is an example of the importance of passing down our language to our children. We are grateful and remember Teddy Draper not only for his efforts on the battlefield but in the classroom as well.”
Draper was known as a proponent of the Navajo language and taught language classes at Rough Rock Community High School. His legacy in language preservation is handed down in the materials he produced that have become a part of Navajo language curriculum in schools like Navajo Preparatory School and Dine College.
“With the loss of another of our Navajo Code Talkers, we grow even more grateful and appreciative of their lives and their brave service for the Navajo Nation and our country,” said Speaker LoRenzo Bates (Nenahnezad, Newcomb, San Juan, Tiis Tsoh Sikaad, Tse’Daa’Kaan, Upper Fruitland).
Council Delegate Jonathan Hale (Oak Springs, St. Michaels) also shared his thoughts and sympathy for Draper’s family and said he hopes the United States will show appreciation and honor all of the Navajo Code Talkers and the Navajo people.
“The Navajo Nation salutes the service and sacrifices of all Code Talkers that have gone and for those who are still with us,” said Delegate Hale. “Our language is resilient and powerful enough to move mountains and save lives, through our language we will carry on as a people.”
Begaye recognized Draper and the Code Talkers as great Navajo warriors, who deserve all the recognition they receive. The Nation and the Navajo people need to highlight their heroic accomplishments by creating a museum in their honor, he said.
“As a nation, we need to dedicate ourselves to make this happen,” Begaye said.
Although the Nation mourns the recent passing of two Navajo Code Talkers, Begaye calls on every chapter to celebrate the legacy of the Code Talkers by continuing to support their efforts.
“Whether it’s on the Nation or internationally, let’s support all they do, however, we are able to,” Begaye said.
The Nation will fly the flags at half-staff to honor the life and legacy of Teddy Draper Sr.