Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Navajo Code Talker celebrates Veteran's Day and his 94th Birthday

Navajo Code Talker Dan Akee turns 94 on Veteran's Day 2015. Wife Margaret looks on.
Navajo Code Talker Dan Akee turns 94 on Veteran's Day. A celebration will be held in Tuba City, Arizona, for the retired Sargent Major who served in the United States Marine Corps during WWII. He lives on the Navajo Nation less than 60 miles from the East Entrance of Grand Canyon National Park. Dan Akee is one of twelve Navajo code talkers left in the United States.  He was one of over 44,000 Native Americans who served in the US military during WWII and one of 450 trained Navajo code talkers.  Dan Akee will be 94 years old on his birthday on November 11, 2015.

“I am very happy that all Navajos should be very proud of us because their language has been used … The whole United States were very proud of us. It took 25 years till it was released -- until we could start talking about the Code Talkers. I am very happy a lot of people respect me," said Dan Akee in an exclusive Vagabonding Lulu interview. He was the recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest honor awarded to service men and women.
Congressional Medal of Honor in the hands of 94-year-old veteran and Navajo Code Talker
In the 1960s Dan Akee built a home, which is now in dire need of repair and renovation.  He is currently not able to reside in the house due to its unlivable condition. Red Feather Development Group, a non-profit with offices in Flagstaff, Arizona, and Bozeman, Montana, is coordinating a campaign to raise $70K in donations and in-kind materials to renovate his home by Christmas Day 2015.  Red Feather has been serving Native Americans and housing needs for over 20 years.

"When we heard about Navajo code talker Dan Akee, we knew we had to do something quick," said Mark Hall, Executive Director of Red Feather Development Group in a press release.  "We are thrilled in how the Veterans and the entire community is responding, it’s beautiful."

"All I want to do before I die, is live in the house I built with my own hands 60 years ago," said Dan Akee to his son Danny Akee who is his caretaker. Dan Akee is in a wheelchair full time and was recently hospitalized for pneumonia.
Akee family home in Tuba City, AZ, is in need of renovation.
"When my father was in the hospital, he wasn’t praying for his health, he was praying for the money to fix the house. Now that Red Feather has gotten involved, we know my dad’s dream of living in his house is going to come true," Danny Akee smiles and get tears in his eyes to think of this
happening for his father, a national hero, his hero.
Danny Akee, son of WWII Code Talker in home that needs renovation.
Dan Akee was born in Coalmine Canyon on the Navajo Reservation and named Red Moccasins. He is a descendant of the Kiyanni and Ashihii clans, born on November 11, 1922. Dan Akee was 21 years old when he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1943, shortly after the outbreak of WWII.  He trained as a code talker at Camp Pendleton and was detailed to the 4th Marine Division, 25th Regiment. From 1943-45, Akee took part in some of the most ferocious fighting in the Pacific including the Marshall Islands, Saipan, Tinian and two campaigns of Iwo Jima.  He memorized over 555 Navajo words in a highly classified system of Code Talk, which is credited as helping win the Battle at Iwo Jima.   During the war, the Navajo Code Talk was never broken.  It took Dan Akee over five months to memorize the secret codes.

Red Feather is sponsoring a crowdfunding campaign on Generosity.com, one of the Indiegogo sites to enlist thousands who care about Veterans to help raise $70,000.   When significant donations are made, donors will receive original Akee family Navajo sand paintings as a thank you gift.  Danny Akee and his wife Marie are already in production at their art studio next door to the house that is being renovated.
Danny's wife, Marie Akee creates traditional sand paintings for donors.
"We better get started, we think lots of people are going to help us make this dream come true," quipped Danny Akee.
"We are approaching the renovation in a four-phased approach," Joe Seidenberg, Program Manager for Red Feather noted. "We are starting with the most critical items first like the roof, windows and doors and working our way up from there. Please call us if you have access to materials or labor, this is going to take everyone coming together to pull this off."

Red Feather has planned a bathroom and kitchen renovation that will allow veteran Dan Akee full handicap access along with wheelchair access ramp to the house.  A kickoff work party was held Saturday, November 7. Over 30 volunteers from the surrounding community came out last Saturday to begin preparing the house for renovation.  The work party included President of the Navajo Nation, Russell Begaye, Vice President Jonathan Nez and some of their staff, numerous local veterans, staff from the Department of Veterans Affairs, and members of the Akee family. The goal is to have the Akee’s home completed for Christmas.

3 WAYS TO GIVE TO THE DAN AKEE 'GOING HOME' RED FEATHER RENOVATION PROJECT:
  1. Go to the Red Feather Development Group website and donate directly at www.redfeather.org
  2. Go to Indigogo and contribute to the Dan Akee Going Home crowd funder
  3. Call Red Feather Development Group in Flagstaff, AZ at 928-440-5119 and let us knowwhat in-kind donation you would like to make or if you have a volunteer organization that can provide renovation labor.  
For more information: 
Red Feather Development Group, a non-profit organization
2501 N. 4th Street, Suite 17, Flagstaff, AZ  86004
928-440-5119 (office)
Norena Gutierrez, Director of Development & Communications
norena@redfeather.org
www.redfeather.org

Stacey Wittig is "Vagabonding Lulu" who searches the world for interesting stories. Read about her most recent book, Spiritual and Walking Guide: Leon to Santiago on Camino on Amazon.

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