Young Marines honor WWII Navajo Code Talkers

August 31, 2023 – We sat down with Sandy Martinez of the Clovis Young Marines, who welcomed us to their meeting on a Friday evening. This upcoming September will mark 15 years of her involvement in the Young Marines. 

The Young Marines is a national non-profit 501c (3) youth education and service program for boys and girls, aged eight through high school graduation.

“The Young Marines promote the mental, moral and physical development of its members. The program focuses on teaching the values of leadership, teamwork and self-discipline, so its members can live and promote a healthy, drug-free lifestyle,” states their website.

In addition to these values, Sandy Martinez said that they also honor the late Enrique “Kiki” Camarena Salazar. Camarena was a Mexican-born American Marine and undercover agent for the DEA.

We asked Martinez what Young Marines can expect to learn in the program, “They learn leadership skills, they learn teamwork, they learn how to be a good American, responsibility, accountability, anti-bullying,” said Martinez.

The Young Marines is not only for young people who plan on joining the Marine Corps—it is open to any young person age 8 through high school.

Each year on August 14th for Navajo Code Talkers Day, Young Marines from all over the country travel to Window Rock, Arizona to honor the Navajo Code Talkers.

Today, the Navajo Nation reservation includes sections of northeastern Arizona, northwestern New Mexico, and southeastern Utah. It is called Diné Bikéyah, or Navajoland. The Navajo Nation is the largest area held by Native Americans currently.

This year, over 150 Young Marines from 20 units participated in cleaning up Window Rock, marching in the parade, and honoring the Navajo Nation with a ceremony.

In reference to the Navajo Code Talkers ceremony, Sandy Martinez said, “It was very interesting. It was very moving.”

“Every WWII combatant appreciated the need for an unbreakable code that would help them communicate while protecting their operational plans. The U.S. Marines knew where to find one: the Navajo Nation. Marine Corps leadership selected 29 Navajo men, the Navajo Code Talkers, who created a code based on the complex, unwritten Navajo language. The code primarily used word association by assigning a Navajo word to key phrases and military tactics. This system enabled the Code Talkers to translate three lines of English in 20 seconds, not 30 minutes as was common with existing code-breaking machines,” states 1942: Navajo Code Talkers, Inventors of the Unbreakable Code.

“The Code Talkers participated in every major Marine operation in the Pacific theater, giving the Marines a critical advantage throughout the war. During the nearly month-long battle for Iwo Jima, for example, six Navajo Code Talker Marines successfully transmitted more than 800 messages without error. Marine leadership noted after the battle that the Code Talkers were critical to the victory at Iwo Jima. At the end of the war, the Navajo Code remained unbroken.”

We honor and thank the Navajo Code Talkers for all that they did for our country.

If you are interested in your child joining the Young Marines, please visit their Facebook page, Clovis Young Marines for their contact information.

Destiny De La Cruz is a budding journalist with a passion for photojournalism. As a Fresno State alumni, she earned a bachelor's degree in Mass Communication & Journalism, the Film & Media Arts option with a minor in Anthropology. She has an interest in all things film, food, literature & outdoors.