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Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial honors the Navajo code talkers

A new plaque at Mt. Soledad, a famous landmark in La Jolla, honors the Navajo code talkers and their contributions during the war.

SAN DIEGO — It was an event to honor those who fought for our freedom; among those present were family members of the famous Navajo Code Talkers—a top-secret code developed in San Diego.

"Not all of us get the opportunity to pay the ultimate sacrifice; not all of us get the opportunity to serve in the same way. So what's more important is not necessarily how you served, it's that you did," said James Ryans, Assistant Division Commander for the first Marines division. 

While various Native American languages were used during WWII, the Navajo code talkers developed a unique top-secret language.

They helped transmit secret messages using their native language as code because the Navajo language was unwritten, meaning it was only communicated back and forth, making it unknown to all except native speakers.

During the battle of Iwo Jima, enemies broke every military code used in the Pacific.

"In the early stages, when admiral Yamamoto was sailing for Midway, he was confident that he would take Midway and destroy America. 

So the Navajo code took the difficulty of encrypting strategic language and decrypting strategic language in a matter of seconds," Regan Hawthorne, whose father was one of the 29 Navajo code talkers, was at the event. 

He said there are only three Navajo code talkers still alive, and the reason it's crucial to keep their stories alive.

"I am privileged to sit on a board that allows honoring those men," said Hawthorne.

Thousands of plaques honoring veterans surround the memorial's monumental cross, and at Saturday's event, a new plaque was attached in honor of the Navajo code talkers and their contributions during the war.

"In honor of the Navajo code talkers, and it's near a marine unit, the same unit that was guarding the gate in Kabul Afghanistan–second battalion, first marines," said Neil O' Connell, the Executive Director for Mt. Soledad National Veterans Memorial. 

Currently, almost 6,000 veteran plaques are at the memorial for the public to see, and 2,000 more are being added.

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