06/05/2014 01:37 pm ET Updated Aug 04, 2014

Thank You, Chester Nez


Chester Nez, the last of the Navajo Code Talkers passed away on Wednesday, June 4, in Albuquerque, NM.

Thank you, Chester Nez.
Thank you, Navajo Code Talkers.
Thank you for your service to your country. Even though your country treated you like second-class citizens, even though your country attempted to eradicate your language you persevered. You repaid enmity with kindness. You repaid segregation with loyalty.

Thanks to your efforts our country was successful in the Pacific theater of war in the Second World War. I hope that we have learned that diversity is what makes us strong.

I want to thank you personally because you have transformed my life. Thanks to your service, our Congress recognized the importance of the study of foreign languages, and of regionally important languages, establishing a system of scholarships to allow U.S. citizens to study these languages. Thanks to the program they established, I was able to learn Nahuatl, the Aztec language: as Robert Frost wrote in his poem "The Road Not Taken," "And that has made all the difference."

Studying Nahuatl has opened whole new worlds to me. I have, over the course of my career, attempted to share those worlds with others. It has enriched my life in so many ways; I simply cannot begin to enumerate them here.

So, thank you Chester Nez. Thank you, Navajo Code Talkers.