September 16, 2007

Choctaw codetalkers honored

The first code talkersAlthough few people know it outside the Choctaws' original grounds in southeastern Oklahoma, they were the first "code talkers" in the U.S. military, using the intricacy and obscurity of their language a full generation before the Navajos played the same role in World War II.

A small band of Choctaw Indians volunteered when the U.S. entered World War I and joined the 36th Infantry Division, a joint Texas and Oklahoma outfit that made Camp Bowie into a household name in Fort Worth.
What happened to them:The Defense Department honored the Navajos and Comanches and unveiled an exhibit at the Pentagon in the 1990s. Congress authorized legislation to award the Navajos a Congressional Gold Medal. At the White House in 2001, the honor was presented to the few surviving men. Hollywood produced a movie in 2002, Windtalkers, starring Nicolas Cage.

The Choctaws' story remained a one-sentence footnote, if that, in most of the hoopla.
How things are finally changing:At 2 p.m. on the grounds of Camp Mabry, the 18 code talkers will posthumously receive the Lone Star Medal of Valor, the state's second- highest honor.

Pyle and the code talkers' descendants will then tour the Brig. Gen. John C.L. Scribner Texas Military Forces Museum, which recently completed a long-awaited exhibit on the men and their role in history.

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