Navajo Windtalkers- the end of an era

“The end of an era.” How many times have we heard that and shrugged? What could that possibly mean to me? An article in today’s Orlando Sentinel caught my attention for both business and personal reasons. Many of you know that I am the (too) proud mom of teenage twins, adopted at birth, both (of course) with a very strong Native American heritage.

Today’s announcement that the last of the 29 Navajo Code Talkers has died (and the story written by reporter Joseph Kolb) hit several chords.  As a linguist I am fascinated by secret and dying languages.  As a mother of twins, I’ve seen firsthand the magical language they developed as mere babies, communicating in a tongue no one else was privy to.  I once tried to mimic what they called one another when they stopped and stared at me with a look that said in volumes, “Did we give you permission to talk in our language? We don’t think so.”  I never did it again.  But I did grab the video camera to capture it before they inevitably switched to my native tongue.

Back during World War II, Navajo Nation members were recruited to communicate in their native language to outsmart the enemy.  Despite their best efforts, the Japanese were unable to crack the “code”.  They are credited with saving thousands of lives and even shortening the war.  One language, understood by only 30 people in the world, saved thousands of lives.

Now try and tell me that knowing a dying language isn’t important.

With this blog, CBR salutes the “Windtalkers” who were also awarded Congressional Medals of Honor.  For your bravery, skills, responsiveness and results, we, too, salute you.  You were called “communications specialists” by the military.

How ironic on this very same day, CBR is shuffling through resumes to hire for a position we naively call “communication specialist”, not knowing the originations of that important position in our history of freedom fighters.  These young people will communicate in yet a newer language, social media-speak.

The world of languages and communication continues to fascinate us at CBR.  And today – especially so.  Thank you, Windtalkers.

Lori C. Booker, APR, is founder and CEO of CBR Strategic Communications and is a respected news media commentator.

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