Navajo legacy lives on with 26th MEU MarineBy Cpl. Juan A. Soto-Delgado
26th Marine Expeditionary Unit
dvidshub.net Lance Cpl. Natema A. Yazzie, a Landing, Utah local, and a Native American with the Navajo tribe, graduated from Lodge Grass High School in 2012. After enlisting in 2015, Yazzie is now an electrician with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron VMM-162 (REIN), 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) and is getting ready to deploy. Yazzie joined the Marine Corps for the challenge and to see what the world has to offer. “I wanted to explore and the Marine Corps seemed like the best choice for me,” said Yazzie. “I came from a small town and living in a reservation was different, my closest neighbor lived five miles away. I decided it was time for a change and I went to the nearest recruiter.” It was only until after completing recruit training in Parris Island, South Carolina, that Yazzie learned her grandfather was a World War II veteran and a United States Marine. “It honestly surprised me at first,” said Yazzie. “At first I didn’t know my grandpa served in World War II. He never talked about it until after I finished boot camp.”
Yazzie’s grandfather, Thomas Begay, was one of the few Navajo Code Talkers during World War II. Bilingual speakers from the Navajo Tribe were used to send messages across the pacific because even if the messages were intercepted, the messages were indecipherable to those who didn’t understand the language. “The fact that Navajo was used in the military didn’t surprise me,” said Yazzie. “I knew the military used it and for that I’m kind of glad that it’s a part of American history.” Yazzie said speaking Navajo is a vital part of her tribe’s tradition and the language has a deeper meaning than just words, but a mutual respect and understanding of each other. “It’s completely different from English, it’s difficult to explain,” said Yazzie. “I speak to my entire family in Navajo, it’s just the way I grew up. There are certain words and phrases that you wouldn’t be able to say in English, but you can understand in Navajo. I think that is why no one could understand it because the language is something you have to experience to understand.” Currently, Yazzie is at sea with VMM-162 aboard USS New York (LPD 21) participating in Combined Composite Training Unit Exercise, the final preparatory exercise before a deployment at sea next year. “I’m excited for the deployment and what the future has for me,” said Yazzie. “I always wanted to explore the world. Now, I have the opportunity to do just that and follow in my grandfather’s footsteps.” DOD DVIDS (Defense Video Imagery Distribution System) is a state-of-the-art, 24/7 operation that provides a timely, accurate and reliable connection between the media around the world and the military serving worldwide. This article is in the public domain.