The story of Navajo code talkers who served as U.S. Marines in World War II has been widely told since the federal government declassified the information in 1968.
Code talkers developed a code that Japanese forces could not break and many war historians consider it one of the key reasons for U.S. victory in 1945. The 2002 movie ‘Windtalkers,’ featuring Nicolas Cage and Adam Beach, brought their efforts to national prominence.
But in the aftermath of victory, Marines who served as code talkers suffered many of the afflictions, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, that have plagued service members who served in war, then and now.
Cindy Jarvison, the daughter of one of the original 29 code talkers, Allen Dale June, recently spoke about her memories of her father and how she and some of her sisters reconnected with him with help from Navajo leader Kelsey Begaye.
“Our relationship was a little strange,” Jarvison said. “I was angry with my father. He was dealing with extreme PTSD, he was drinking a lot. It’s why my mother left him.”
Jarvison’s mom was June’s second wife. He was married three times. June died in 2010.
“We didn’t understand,” Jarvison said. “We were young and there was a lot we didn’t know about.”
But, in large part due to the efforts of Begaye, she and her sisters were able to reconnect with June.
Jarvison worked with Begaye, who served in Vietnam with the U.S. Army, before the national recognition arrived. Begaye had grown up knowing the June family well.
“Kelsey told us that we needed to be proud of our dad,” Jarvison said. “He’s seen things that you’ll never see.”
Jarvison said Begaye lobbied extensively for the Code Talkers to get credit.
“He was pivotal in them getting recognition. He worked with Senator John McCain and Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush,” Jarvison said.
Those efforts led to a ceremony in 2001 when President Bush presented the 29 original Navajo Code Talkers with the Congressional Gold Medal. The “Windtalkers” movie followed in 2002.
“We reconnected with him in Washington D.C. at a feature opening of the movie,” Jarvison said. “My dad, he was very humble, didn’t talk about it much. He said it dredged up a lot of bad memories.
“When I asked ‘Pops’ what he thought of the movie, he said it didn’t capture what really happened,” Jarvison said.
Jarvison’s final moments with her dad proved to be very poignant, as well as healing.
“He had severe dementia and I really saw how he reverted back to his time in the war. He was saying horrible things and his nurses said he was in war mode,” Jarvison said. “It was really sad, but the day before he passed, four of his Junes, including my uncle, Adolf, who took care of us when we were growing up, were with dad.
“Everyone except me had left his room and he had this brief moment of clarity and asked me where everyone had gone. His eyes were clear, he was his old self and I told him ‘We’re all proud of you, Pops, and what you did for us.
“If you want to let go, it’s fine. And the next day he was gone,” Jarvison said. “That one moment was great closure.”
The Havasu Freedom Foundation, in conjunction with the Marine Corps League and Lake Havasu City, will honor code talkers at a ceremony at Bridgewater Channel under the London Bridge at 9 a.m., Saturday, June 8.
The ceremony will include recognition and the unveiling of the newest section of the walkway.
Laura Tohe will be the guest speaker for the event. She is also a well-known author, poet, historian and Arizona State University professor. Zonnie Gorman is scheduled to be the keynote speaker. She is a daughter of Carl N. Gorman, one of the original 29 Navajo Code Talkers. She has written and spoken on the subject extensively across the country and Canada. Both are daughters of Code Talkers.