Tlingit code talkers honored at Juneau Veterans Day ceremony

More than 100 people attended a Southeast Alaska Native Veterans ceremony Tuesday, honoring Tlingit code talkers who served during World War II.

The families of five men received medals and Congressional certificates recognizing their service at a packed Veterans Day event at Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall.

Tony Jacobs’ dad and uncle were among the soldiers who used the Tlingit language to relay important information during the war.

“The Tlingit Indians had their own Tlingit names for various places around Southeast,” Jacobs said. “And that’s what they were used for is to let the ship’s captain or quartermasters know where they were located secretly actually, where enemy forces would not be able to ID their location.”

Jacobs said he was overcome with emotion at the recognition for his father and uncle. He said he served in the Navy himself during 1970s, and would recommend military service to anyone.

“You get benefits – health benefits, education benefits – and you get to see the country and/or the world,” Jacobs said.

Tlingit code talkers Mark Jacobs Sr., Harvey Jacobs, Jeff David, Richard Bean Sr. and George Lewis were all posthumously honored by Congress last year.

Gov. Sean Parnell and first lady Sandy Parnell were among those attending a separate Veterans Day ceremony.

The governor sat in the audience, but did not speak during the event, organized by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Taku Post 5559.


Audio postcard of Veterans Day observance at Centennial Hall:

Voices and sounds include Chaplain Kirk Thorsteinson, Kathleen Wayne (accompanied by J. Allan McKinnon on piano), Commander Dan McCrummen of VFW Taku Post 5559, and Commander Matt Fay of the U.S. Coast Guard.


Coast Guard Commander Matt Fay was the featured speaker. He acknowledged the many sacrifices veterans have already made for their country, while urging them to give a little more by inspiring others to serve.

“As you spend time with your families today, over the holidays, I ask that you share some things about your service,” Fay said. “I also ask that you consider other means of preserving your story.”

Fay is staff judge advocate with the Coast Guard’s District 17 headquarters in Juneau. He encouraged veterans to participate in the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project.

The VFW event was held at Centennial Hall at the traditional time when Veterans Day ceremonies take place – the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. That’s the date and time an armistice went into effect between the Allies and Germany in 1918, ending World War I.

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