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Family of Ojibwe code talker receives posthumous Medal of Honor

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The family of Lex Porter attended a ceremony in Washington, D.C. where the now-deceased member of the Fond du Lac band of Ojibwe was among those honored for their service as code talkers during World War II.

His grandson Freedom Porter, 34, of Baxter told the Brainerd Dispatch that his grandfather will posthumously receive the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest civilian award. Porter said the family was surprised to hear of the award because his grandfather never mentioned that he served as a code talker. Porter said the delivery of the actual medal many not take place for several months; there are plans to present the medals to the Fond du Lac tribe.

Porter said that during the ceremony, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral James Winnefeld credited code talkers with helping win the war. “Hearing so many call my grandpa ‘hero’ was amazing,” Porter said. “To me he was just Grandpa.”

"Native Words, Native Warriors," a touring exhibit from the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian was at the Minnesota History Center in 2009. It tells the story of how American Indians used their languages to transmit secret tactical messages in a way that proved undecipherable by the enemy and helped Allied forces achieve victory. The exhibit included information on Dakota and Ojibwe Code Talkers from Minnesota who were active during World War II.

The program remained classified until 1968. Many code talkers like Lex Porter never broke the vow of silence they took upon entering the program.

The Associated Press reported that one of the Navajo code talkers died Thursday in New Mexico. Wilfred Billey was 90. He was awarded the Congressional Silver Medal in 2001. Billey had worked with New Mexico's congressional delegation to come up with the words appearing along the bottom of the Congressional medals presented to code talkers: "Dine Bizaad Yee Atah Naayee' Yik'eh Deesdlii" or "The Navajo language was used to defeat the enemy."

Last month, the Rapid City Journal had a story on the government's belated recognition of the Lakota code talkers. Although all of them have died, they were recognized with a Congressional Gold Medal on Nov. 20. The last living Lakota Sioux code talker, Clarence Wolf Guts, died in 2010.

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