Families of eight members of Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa - Meskwakis - received Congressional medals on Wednesday, Nov. 20, in honor of their relative's service as U.S. military Code Talkers during World War II. A gold medal was also presented to the Meskwaki Tribe in recognition of the service of their members during World Wars I and II.
The ceremony was held in Emancipation Hall at the U.S. Capitol. Speaker of the House John Boehner R-Ohio) described the code talkers as the "bravest of the brave."
"The ceremony was long overdue but the recognition was heartfelt," U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said. "All of us are grateful for the contribution of the Meskwaki and others that used their language in service to our country. The code talkers saved lives. They used something unique to them to help preserve the United States from sworn enemies."
Donald Wanatee (center, front) displays the Congressional Gold Medal awarded on Wednesday, Nov.. 20 in Washington to the Meskwaki Tribe recognizing the Tribal members who were Code Talkers during World War II in the U.S. armed forces. Relatives and Tribal members and representatives are joined by U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) at Wanatee’s left and Iowa 1st District Congressman Bruce Braley (R-Waterloo), third from right following the ceremony. Family members of the Code Talkers also received medals of recognition.
-U.S. Senate photos
The Meskwakis and members of 32 other Native American Tribes used their own languages for sensitive military communications during the war. Their communications were never deciphered by the enemy according to accounts of the war effort.
"At the ceremony today, members of the Meskwaki tribe were present to honor their ancestors who served as Code Talkers. It was an inspiration to see them recognized for their service and a proud day for Iowa to know that these remarkable men finally received the recognition they've long deserved," Iowa 1st District U.S. Representative Bruce Braley (D-Waterloo) said.
Among those attending were Robin Roberts, who led in the effort for the medals to be awarded and Meskwaki Tribal Council member Donald Wanatee who accepted the gold medal on behalf of the Tribe.
Others scheduled to attend according to Senator Grassley's office included:
Theresa Lynne Mahoney, Descendant of Honoree Benson, Sac and Fox/Meskwaki;
Robert John Roberts, Descendant of Honoree Roberts, Sac and Fox/Meskwaki;
Ramona Norma Sanache, Descendant of Honoree F. Sanache, Sac and Fox/Meskwaki;
Alvin Lee Sanache, Descendant of Honoree W. Sanache, Sac and Fox/Meskwaki;
Melissa Rose Youngbear; Descendant of Honoree M. Wabaunasee, Sac and Fox/Meskwaki;
Marguerite Youngbear Bass, Descendant of Honoree Youngbear, Sac and Fox/Meskwaki;
Craig Lasley Sr., Representative, Sac and Fox/Meskwaki;
Robin Lee Roberts, Representative, Sac and Fox/Meskwaki;
Ramakrishna Dhanwada, Representative, Sac and Fox/Meskwaki;
Beatrice Youngbear, Tribal Council Member, Sac and Fox/Meskwaki;
Shirlene Fawn Seymour, Descendant of Honoree Twin, Winnebago;
Daniel Ray Wabaunasee, Descendant of Honoree Judie Wabaunasee, Sac and Fox/Meskwaki.
By John Speer
"Mission accomplished!" Robin Roberts said Thursday upon return from a two-day trip to Washington D.C. Roberts led the campaign for Congressional Gold Medal recognition of the eight Sac and Fox - Meskwaki Tribal members who served as Code Talkers in the U.S. Armed Forces during World War II.
After working diligently for a total of 10 years and five months, the work paid off with the official ceremony in Washington on Wednesday, Nov. 20.
Not only did Roberts play a pivotal role for his own Meskwaki Tribe, but he spent countless hours working with other Tribes of which members also served as military Code Talkers and were honored Wednesday, as well.
Not only that, but he can recount what seemed like endless telephone, email and mail communications with Congressional leaders and staff over the years.
Roberts took his effort on the road too, speaking to veterans organizations around the state and just about anyone else who he said could back his effort to obtain what U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley called "long overdue recognition" in a statement following the Washington ceremony.