GALLUP, N.M — On Feb. 5, Navajo Nation Vice President Myron Lizer and Second Lady Dottie Lizer joined hundreds of Navajo citizens, family members, and loved ones at a memorial service to honor the life and memory of Navajo Code Talker Joe Vandever, Sr. at the El Morro Theatre in Gallup, N.M.
On Feb. 3, Nez issued a proclamation that called for all flags on the Navajo Nation to be flown at half-staff in honor and memory of Vandever, who passed away Jan. 31 at the age of 96 in Haystack, New Mexico.
During the service, Lizer presented the proclamation and a Navajo Nation flag to the family of Vandever, and offered his condolences on behalf of the Navajo people.
“As we mourn the loss of Navajo Code Talker Joe Vandever, Sr., we also honor and remember all his great sacrifices for our Navajo people and the entire country. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends, and community members as they lay him to rest,” he said.
Vandever was born Feb. 5, 1923, into the Red Running Into the Water People clan, born for Two Who Came to the Water clan. He was married for 73 years to his wife, Bessie D. Vandever, who passed Sept. 24, 2019.
Vandever enlisted with the U.S. Marine Corps in Santa Fe, N.M. March 26, 1943, and was honorably discharged as Corporal Jan. 22, 1946. He served in northern Solomons, Bougainville, Emirau Islands, Guam, Marianas Islands, Okinawa, Ryukyus Islands, Occupation of Japan, and Occupation of China. In 2001, he received the Congressional Silver Medal for his service as a Navajo Code Talker in World War II.
During the service, Vandever’s grandchildren, Eric Nez, Shaylee Vandever, Petrina Vandever, Shelby Vandever and Petulia Vandever, shared memories, teachings, and disciplines of their grandfather and grandmother.
“Our Cheii and Shimásání (grandfather and grandmother) encouraged us to be the best we can be and to contribute to the Navajo Nation and the world. He stressed the need for each of their 91 grandchildren to speak and value our Navajo language. He said our language and culture identifies who we are and it will protect us and make us stronger. We will greatly miss our grandparents,” said grandson Eric Nez.