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Expert on Navajo Code Talkers will be guest speaker here Nov. 19

SALISBURY — Catherine Ritch, who has interviewed the last 18 living Code Talkers of the Navajo Nation, will be the key speaker and presenter at a Nov. 19 Native American Program at the Hefner VA Medical Center.

The main program will be held from 11:30 a.m.-1;30 p.m. in the Social Room of Building 6. The public is encouraged to attend.

Throughout World War II, approximately 420 Navajos were used to develop code words for new locations, artillery and other tactical information until the code was well over 600 words, all memorized and never written. These men were kept secret for over 20 years following the end of the war, until they were finally declassified in 1968.

In 2001, they were all presented the Congressional Medal of Honor.

A large display of Indian artifacts and dances also will be offered in the VA’s Building 6 Social Room from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Nov. 19.

Special honorees during the main program will be Indians, veterans and community elders from ages 90 to more than 100 years old who are able to attend. They will be recognized as “Centurions.” A Peace Pole with eight Indian languages will be unveiled and a teepee also will be on display. Refreshments will be available.

Navajo Code Talker Thomas H. Begay, who served with the U.S. Marine Corps’ 5th Division on Iwo Jima, will be speaking at 1 p.m. Nov. 14 at St. John’s Lutheran Church, 100 St. John’s Church Rd, Concord. A reception will follow.

Begay, 89, is one of the 18 remaining survivors of the 420 Navajo Code Talkers who played an instrumental role for U.S. forces in the Pacific Theater. Begay, along with a team of other Navajo Code Talkers, worked non-stop for over 24 hours on Iwo Jima, sending more than 800 communications, all without error.

The code developed and implemented by these men is the only unbroken code ever used in all of military history.

Ritch, who will be the guest speaker in Salisbury, is a published composer and author of inspirational fiction, non-fiction, comedy and children’s books with 28 books currently in print.

She is a frequent speaker/musician for national and international conferences in a variety of venues and works to replenish children’s libraries in disaster areas.

A radio personality who once interviewed her said of Ritch, “Catherine’s lightning quick wit and musical talent are astonishing enough, but combined with her never ending source of positive energy, the woman is a ball of fire that’s sure to inspire.”

Ritch lives in Stallings and holds bachelor’s degrees in church music and music education and a master’s degree in Christian Education.

Her next book, “Voices of Victory: The Navajo Code Talkers,” is a non-fiction work about the Navajo Code Talkers of World War II. It is scheduled to release in the spring of 2016.

For the Nov. 19 event in Salisbury, seniors over 90 are being asked to call or leave message at 704-640-0242 for Chief Fleming Otey, chaplain and retired volunteer. His email is fbotey@gmail.com.

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