It’s not often that one gets to meet a true American hero, let alone four of them! Just before Veterans Day, I had the privilege of meeting four Navajo Code Talkers at an event in New York City honoring them for their amazing work during World War II.
The Navajo Code Talkers were an elite group of Marine communicators. They were founded in 1942, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in late 1941. In the early days of the war with Japan, our codes were being broken by Japanese intelligence due to their knowledge of the English language. And, since the Japanese had many communicators who were fluent in English, they were able to issue false commands to our troops, further undermining our efforts and costing many American lives.
Enter Philip Johnston. A civilian and a veteran of World War I, Mr. Johnston was the son of a missionary and had grown up on a Navajo reservation. He was one of about only 30 people outside of the Navajo nation that could speak their language. Navajo is an extremely difficult language to learn due to the fact that it has no alphabet. Mr. Johnston knew that the Navajo language could produce a code that would be difficult for the Japanese to decipher. He began to enlist young Navajo men to aid in the effort. Initially, 29 Navajo young men, some as young as 15 and most who had never seen the world beyond their reservation, enlisted in the Marines and formed the Navajo Code Talkers. Eventually, nearly 400 Navajo men enlisted and became Code Talkers.
The original 29 Navajo men worked to develop the Navajo Code by adapting their native language into military terminology. For example, they used the Navajo word for turtle to replace the word “tank” and the Navajo word for chicken hawk became the word for “dive bomber.”
Throughout the war in the Pacific, the Navajo Code Talkers worked as Field Communicators, directly receiving commands and translating them into Navajo Code to be received and translated on the battlefields by other Navajo Code Talkers. In the first 48 hours of the Battle of Iwo Jima, the Code Talkers sent and deciphered over 800 coded messages with perfect accuracy.
The Japanese were never able to decipher the Navajo Code. Many military experts credit the excellent work of the Navajo Code Talkers with saving thousands of American lives, helping win the Battle of Iwo Jima, and helping to bring the war in the Pacific to a swifter end.
Since the Navajo Code Talkers’ mission was so highly secretive, their work went unrecognized for more than 20 years. Their mission was declassified in 1968, but it took until 2001 for true recognition to come when they were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Southwest Airlines had the privilege of flying four of these heroes from New Mexico and Arizona to New York City. They were honored at a reception at HBO Headquarters in conjunction with Veterans Across America, and they were honored in New York’s Veterans Day Parade.
There are plans to construct a Navajo Code Talkers Museum and Veterans Center in Arizona. To learn how you can help and to learn more about these unique American War Heroes, please visit www.navajocodetalkers.org .
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One of the most wonderful aspects of Southwest Airlines’ generosity is our ability to react quickly to help a non-profit organization in need. Our “No Red Tape” philosophy extends beyond our ‘no change fees’ policy! One recent example was a sponsorship request we received from Dr. Stephne’ Coney, Founder of the National Stop the Violence Alliance located in Camden, NJ. On April 16, the organization was holding a benefit gala, A Celebration of Hope in Black and White. At the gala, they would be honoring the memory of the late Senator Edward Kennedy with a posthumous Presidential Award. Senator Kennedy’s son, Congressman Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) would be accepting his father’s award and be presented with his own award, the National Peace Medal for Civic Engagement and a bust of Senator Kennedy. We were able to respond quickly and sponsored the event by providing tickets that the organization could use to fly in several community leaders and the sculptor of the bust, Patrick Voss. Dr. Coney was eternally grateful for our support in making their evening a huge success. We certainly can’t help every non-profit with this type of need, but when we can, it’s wonderful to be able to make a positive difference without any red tape in sight. To learn more about National Stop the Violence Alliance, please visit www.nationalstoptheviolence.org
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Sorin, you can read more about Cooking Up Change at www.healthyschoolscampaign.org. Healthy Schools Campaign is the non-profit organization that created Cooking Up Change. The program is in partnership with Chicago Public Schools.
Thanks for your interest,
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Think back with me for a moment to your days in high school. It’s approaching lunchtime. Are you excited to visit the school cafeteria to see, smell, and taste the healthy and delicious foods warming on the steam tables? No, I didn’t think so. For most of us, high school cafeteria meals consisted of mystery meat, gloppy greenish gravy, and vegetables cooked into unrecognizable mush. There were foods that made an unappetizing splat when the lunch ladies in their white uniforms and hairnets ladled them onto our lunch trays … if we were brave enough to enter the cafeteria line at all. It’s a wonder we were able to think the rest of the day! Fast forward to 2010 and The Healthy Schools Campaign, an independent non-profit organization that advocates for change in the school environment and raises awareness of the ways that the air children breathe, the food they eat, and the opportunities they have to be physically active shape their health and learning for a lifetime. To create awareness of the need for healthy, delicious, and nutritious meals for school children, Healthy Schools Campaign developed Cooking Up Change, a competition for high school students in Chicago Public Schools. Students work in teams to create a school lunch that meets nutritional guidelines, adheres to strict budget constraints, and can be prepared in 6 steps or less. Southwest Airlines is proud to be the official travel partner of Cooking Up Change. The competition was held recently, and I was excited to attend and taste the delicious meals these talented and enthusiastic students prepared. No mystery meat here! 85 students from 14 high schools competed. When asked about the inspiration behind one of their dishes, students from Prosser Academy said, “A lot of kids like Flamin’ Hot chips at our school so we decided to make our own healthier version using potatoes and hot sauce.” With guidance from their instructors and mentors, the students developed and prepared dishes with depth of flavor, a variety of textures, and inspired presentations. We sampled Farmers Market Vegetable Minestrone Soup, Healthy Cuban Sandwich, Cajun Veggie Mac n’Cheese with Chicken, and even tasted a cookie made with spinach! All were delicious and met the criteria for nutrition, cost, and ease of preparation. A panel of food and nutrition experts judged the students’ meals. The first place trophy was awarded to the Richards Career Academy team who prepared an Afro-Caribe Plancha, Soup of Sunshine, and Carribbean Citrus Crunch Relish. Congratulations, Richards! This winning team of student chefs and instructors will be flying on Southwest Airlines to Washington D.C. in the spring to present their winning meal in the Great Hall of the USDA and see it served to Members of Congress. As you can see, they are thrilled to have this honor! Closer to home, their winning meal will be served to all Chicago Public Students. We’re Southwest Airlines, and we’re Cooking Up Change!
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It is a brave man who is willing to share his collego photo with the e-world. I think that photo should have it's own caption contest. I have several entries:
"Richard, Ashton Kutcher called. He wants his hair back."
"I didn't know Barry Gibb went to SMU."
"Last time I saw that hairdo, it was on John Travolta and he was carrying a gallon of paint through the streets of NY."
Have a happy life, Richard!
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