WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) – Frank Chee Willeto, a Navajo Code Talker and former Navajo Nation vice president, has died, the Navajo Nation announced this week. He was 87.
Officials said Willeto died Saturday in his home in Pueblo Pintado, N.M.
Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly ordered on Monday the Navajo Nation flag be flown at half-staff in honor of Willeto.
“(He) served his country and returned home and served his people in many ways,” Shelly said in a statement. “His life is an example of how to help people continuously until his last days. The Navajo Nation's prayers and condolences are with the family of Mr. Willeto.”
In 1944, Willeto enlisted with the U.S. Marines 6th Division, where he took Code Talker training classes. He then served in the Pacific Theater in Saipan and Okinawa.
He received the Congressional Silver Medal in 2001 for his role as a Navajo Code Talker.
Willeto was born in Crownpoint, N.M. After World War II, he returned to the reservation and worked with the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs roads department from 1946 to 1974.
He was elected as a tribal councilman in 1974 and served until 1986, when he was elected president of the Pueblo Pintado chapter. He served as vice president of the Navajo Nation under the Milton Bluehouse administration.
Willeto's funeral services were scheduled for Thursday at Tse Yi Gai High School in Pueblo Pintado with burial Friday in the Santa Fe National Cemetery.