Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Day To Remember

November 11 is Veterans' Day here in the United States, Armistice Day in the United Kingdom, and Remembrance Day in Canada: It is a day for us all to remember the sacrifices made by previous generations of citizens around the world so that we can live freely today.

From: The Daily Telegraph newspaper
2014 marks the centenary of the start of World War One in 1914, and is being commemorated in England, with an art installation at The Tower of London of 888,246 ceramic poppies representing each of the British and colonial lives lost in that war. Click here to find out more about Blood-Swept Lands and Seas of Red, created by Paul Cummings and designed by Tom Piper.

One of these poppies will be on display here at
Oxford Public Library in 2015

In honor of Veterans' Day, and because I have always been fascinated by the experience of ordinary people in extraordinary situations, I recently re-read an excellent book, based on the true story of the Navajo Indian Codebreakers who served as U.S. Marines in World War Two.

Imagine that you are one of only a few people during World War II, in this country, who knows a code that might help defeat the enemy and end the fighting in the Pacific. Would you volunteer to serve your country? Ned Begay finds himself in this situation; he is a Navajo Indian, descended from people who were persecuted for decades by white men and forced to move from their sacred land. Yet he and his friends are willing to support the US Government in this time of war, and Ned becomes a Marine:

            “I realized right away that our job was a really important one. In order to win battles, Marines needed to communicate fast at long distances. In those days before computers, that meant using radio. However, anyone, including the Japanese, could listen to our radio messages. To keep the messages secret, the Marines sent them in code. But the Japanese broke every code our American forces used.  A new kind of code had to be created.” (p.73)

This book describes many of the famous battles of the Pacific, such as Iwo Jima, from a different perspective than you may have heard before, and allows us to see behind the stereotypes to the gentle, brave characters of the Navajo people. This is a popular Accelerated Reading title and one that should be read by all Teen patrons so that they understand something of what their predecessors did, in humble service to their country. You can find this book in the Teen Fiction section at OPL.
 Bruchac, J. (2005). Code Talker: a novel about the Navajo Marines of World War Two.

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