Navajo Soldier inspired to serve by 'code talker' grandfather
November 9, 2010
- Pfc. Chelsea Draper was inspired to join the military by her grandfather, retired Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Teddy Draper, Sr.
- Draper Sr. was a Navajo code talker during World War II.
- Pfc. Draper is serving in Iraq with the 3rd Advise and Assist Brigade, 4th Infantry Division.
MAYSAN PROVINCE, Iraq (Nov. 9, 2010) -- For many years, the United States Army has been a melting pot of Soldiers from different cultures, races and religions, all joining for reasons as different as their backgrounds.
For Pfc. Chelsea Draper, Forward Support Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Advise and Assist Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, joining the military followed in the footsteps of her grandfather.
The 3/4 AAB is currently attached to the 1st Infantry Division as a part of United States Division-South.
A member of the Navajo tribe from Chinle, Ariz., Teddy Draper Sr. served in the U.S. Marine Corps more than 60 years ago, using the Navajo language, or DinAfA Ke'Ji, to transmit coded messages as a code talker.
Code talkers were the Native Americans who served in the Marines from World War I to Vietnam. Used to transmit coded messages over radio and telephone, the languages they spoke were unwritten and undecipherable by the enemy.
Draper grew up very close to her grandfather, hearing of his service as a code talker during World War II. Draper Sr. retired as a sergeant major, having received a Purple Heart, the Congressional Gold Medal as a code talker and his own personal Congressional Silver Medal, among numerous other honors.
Draper said her grandfather is the reason she even thought about joining the Army.
"Even at a young age, I could see the pride my grandfather took in having served his country, and I also understood the sacrifices he made," Draper said.
Draper has traveled a long way from the red-rocked mesas of Arizona to the sands of Iraq. Growing up on the reservation, she was raised within the native culture of her grandfather.
"I speak and write in our native Navajo language, in addition to English, following in a tradition our clan has kept alive as part of their heritage, along with their religion, beliefs, legends and values," Draper said.
When she was considering carrying on the tradition of military service, Draper's grandfather didn't coax her at all, but when she told him she had decided to join, she could see how proud he was of her.
"He gave me his full support, calling me 'my Soldier,'" she said.
"I miss her and I worry about her, but America needs its defenders, and I support Chelsea," Draper Sr. said.
From the peaceful wind chimes of Chinle, Ariz., to the swirling heat of Maysan, Iraq, the connection between grandfather and granddaughter remains a strong and vital force in Draper's life.