Years late, Code Talkers to be honored

The old-timers who served in World War II tended not to talk about what they did.

Too bad, because it deprived families of a fuller picture of their lives.

Just ask Ed Manydeeds, of Eau Claire, Wis., who didn’t know his grandfather was a “Code Talker” during the war.

“It was a complete surprise,” Ed, 66, tells the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram. “None of us in the family had any idea he was involved with that.”

Code Talkers were Native Americans who used their language to transmit and decode sensitive messages during the war.

Edmund Manydeeds, who died in 1952, is one of 18 Code Talkers who will be honored posthumously by the military at a ceremony on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation tomorrow. He pioneered the use of the language as code during World War I.

But none of this was known to the family until they received an invitation to the ceremony.

“We never knew anything about my grandpa having been involved with any of that,” another grandson, Eau Claire County Judge John Manydeeds, said. “It was a nice surprise to learn that he was doing that and that he and others are being honored for that work on behalf of their country.”

When John attends Friday’s ceremony to honor his grandfather and other code talkers, he will reflect on the important service Edmund Manydeeds provided his country during the war. He will contemplate the history associated with the moment. And he will think about the willingness of Native people to help a country that didn’t even count them as citizens until 1924.

“At that point, Native peoples were really trying to prove that they belonged in this country,” John said. “They were working on behalf of a country they weren’t even allowed to be members of.”

Ed had planned to attend the event at which his grandfather will be honored but had to bow out because of illness in his extended family. He is glad his siblings will attend the ceremony that has prompted thoughts about how he grew up in the Dakotas and then in northern Wisconsin, and how his parents taught him and his brothers and sisters about hard work, community involvement and, most of all, the value of education. He likes to think some of those values taught by his dad were passed down by his grandfather.