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Flags on Navajo Nation lowered to honor deceased Code Talker

Flags on the Navajo Nation will be lowered Monday to honor a revered Navajo Code Talker who died in New Mexico last week.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said in a statement that all flags will fly at half-staff as a tribute to Joe Vandever Sr. through Thursday.

Vandever died Friday of health complications in Haystack, according to his family. He was 96.

Vandever was among hundreds of Navajos who served in the Marine Corps during World War II, transmitting messages using a code based on the Navajo language. The code developed by an original group of 29 Navajos was used to confound Japanese forces. It was never broken.

Vandever enlisted in the Marines in Santa Fe in March 1943 and was honorably discharged in January 1946. He worked multiple jobs after the war, including for an oil company and as a mining prospector, and stressed the importance of the Navajo language. He also was a medicine man.

Vandever's death leaves less than a handful of Navajo Code Talkers still alive.

A funeral service is scheduled for Wednesday but a location is still being determined. He will be buried Thursday at the Santa Fe National Cemetery.

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