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Marine Visits Battleground at which Her Grandfather Fought Serving as a Navajo Code Talker

Marine Visits Battleground at which Her Grandfather Fought Serving as a Navajo Code Talker

More than 70 years ago, during World War II, a group of Native-American Marines known as Navajo Code Talkers used their native tongue, Navajo, to transmit secret strategic messages via radios.

Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Peleliu, Iwo Jima: the Navajo code talkers took part in every assault the U.S. Marines conducted in the Pacific from 1942 to 1945. They served in all six Marine divisions, Marine raider battalions and Marine parachute units, transmitting messages by telephone and radio in their native language – a code that the Japanese never deciphered.

Six Navajo Code Talkers were operating continuously during the invasion of Iwo Jima, a battle that yielded 27 Medals of Honor. They sent more than 800 messages with perfect accuracy.

One of those six was Lance Cpl. Jeanette E. Fernando’s grandfather, Thomas Sandoval.

On July 26, 2017, Fernando was given the opportunity to revisit the battlegrounds at which her grandfather fought so many years ago.

Her journey began in Okinawa where she is currently forward deployed on a unit deployment program with 1st Marine Aircraft Wing. After a three hour flight, she finally arrived at Iwo Jima where she immediately started her 10 mile trek up Mt. Suribachi.

“It’s an emotional experience,” said Fernando, an airframe mechanic with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 169, Marine Aircraft Group 39, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. “There’s quite a connection, just knowing that my ancestors were here fighting in WWII.

Under a beating sun, Fernando thought about her grandfather and what he must have gone through as she passed numerous rusted aircraft parts, anti-aerial weapons and other heavy artillery.

“Everything was new to him,” Fernando said. “But that didn’t stop him. I’m able to be in Iwo Jima because of my ancestors, because of the Marines who fought so proudly before me.”

Drenched in sweat and with aching muscles, Fernando made it to the summit. After a moment of silence, she removed her dog tags and placed them on the memorial to honor her grandfather and the other warriors that fought for the island.

“It was difficult but we pushed through it and made it to the top – it was all worth it” said Fernando. “I put myself in my ancestors’ boots who were here before me. I can’t imagine what they had to go through. They were pushing through day and night.”

After a moment of rest she began the long journey back down the mountain. Halfway down the mountain she reached Invasion Beach. She made her way down the steep decline to the beachhead where she began gathering sand to take home and to the Marines back in her squadron.

With an added 20 pounds of sand strapped around her shoulders, Fernando made her way back to the plane. With determination in her eyes and encouraging words for her fellow Marines, she finally completed the hike.

“Words can’t describe how it feels to stand on the land where my ancestors fought so hard to gain,” said Fernando. “I’m very grateful for what [the Navajo Code Talkers] sacrificed. They had the courage and dedication to participate in the program. I’m proud to be part of the Navajo nation.”

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Comments

Gary Ross - May 4, 2020

This comment is to Dennis King above: Your Father was with the 26th Marines, 5th Marine Division. After WW2 the 26th Regiment was deactivated until Viet Nam, then re-activated along with the 27th Marine Regiment, and an Arty Battery which one I’m not sure . This would have been in 1966 I think. I served with F/2/26 @Khe Sanh. Rest assured your Father served with the best (USMC) and the 26th (The Professionals). 26th Regiment was once again deactivated after Viet Nam.

Mike Collins - May 4, 2020

Semper Fi

dennis king - May 4, 2020

Great article. My father fought on Iwo with the 26th. Never heard a word about it. He lost his left hand to a sniper. However the sniper lost his life.

“Headcold” - May 4, 2020

In reply to SSgt (ret) Herbert E. Brown II.
Check out OUR old glory blowing in the wind first min. into the movie…

Sgt Don Cossey-63-67..still a Marine - May 4, 2020

I am so proud of all the Marines and Navy personell who served and died on that small rock,,semper fi..

Top Ram - May 4, 2020

LCpl. Fernando, you have much to be proud of and I salute you. Your accomplishment is what sets aside us Marines, we complete anything we make our minds to do and overcome any obstacle before us. You will certainly make a fine Career Marine. Semper Fi! Top Ram Ret.

John T. Durant - May 4, 2020

PS LCpl Fernando currently has the opportunity to visit important areas of Marine engagement right there on Okinawa. Though again there was no organized touring or commemoration of the battlefields of Okinawa while I was in the service. Too soon OLD too late Smart

SSgt (ret) Herbert E. Brown II - May 4, 2020

Jeanette, if you have not seen it yet, I would highly recommend to you to see the movie, “Wind Talkers” with Nicolas Cage and Adam Beach. This is the only movie I have seen with the Navajo code talkers in it. It is a decent movie, and reflecting good light on the Marine Corps, unlike so many movies coming out of hollowood. Semper Fi!

John T. Durant - May 4, 2020

This article says that 800 messages were, “… sent.”,,, But just as importantly, those 800 messages were “received” for without a “Code Talker” at the other end it really wouldn’t have mattered how many were sent. As a member of Easy Battery of the 12th Marines we, the 12th Marines, relocated from Camp McNair, Japan to Camp Napunga, Okinawa in May-June of 1955. while in transit the 12th Marines, made a simulated combat landing on Iwo Jima. After a brief period of time the guns were lined upon the opposite beach, supposedly for a “regimental gun calibration” . All the guns were lined up and awaiting orders when the word for “CSMO” came down and we just reembarked on our LSTs and continued on to Okinawa. I can not for the life of me remember how we disembarked at Okinawa, In any case, having read Lance Corporals Jeanette Fernando’s experience and with 20/20 hindsight it seems disappointing that all of the Marines that were then on Iwo Jima were not given permission or orders to climb to the summit of Mt. Suribachi and have a fitting memorial service

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