with eyes open wide
What an incredible life that Chester Nez lived. I can’t imagine having his experiences…
Chester was sent to a boarding school as a child. He assimilated into “American” culture and was forbidden from speaking Navajo. After graduating high school, he enlisted in the Marine Corps and eventually helped create the code language used in World War II with a small group of Navajo Marines. This language was based on his native Navajo language and was never broken (the only oral code in the history of the military to never be broken).
Unfortunately, as for many soldiers, Mr. Nez suffered post-traumatic stress disorder and marginalization upon return to the United States after the war. He stayed in a a military hospital for 5 months to recover mentally. He said the thing that really saved him was a traditional Navajo healing ceremony.
He went on to help out stateside in the Korean War and he also worked at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Albuquerque as a painter and muralist.
Rest in peace Mr. Nez! We will continue to fight so that your grandchildren and great children will have more opportunities than you did.