SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Chief Intelligence Specialist Natalie B. 'Wahnee' Weaver comes from a family of military service members, but her paternal grandfather's service during WWII connects Weaver most with her Comanche Indian roots.
The month of November recognizes National American Indian Heritage. Weaver is one of the many men and women serving in the fleet today who have significant ties to an American Indian tribe.
Weaver was born in Lawton, Okla., as part of the Comanche Indian tribe. She is a quarter Comanche Indian, and could not be more proud to be representing her heritage alongside her service in the U.S. Navy.
"Being Native American is who I am, but, most importantly, I serve my country as a U.S. Sailor," said Weaver.
It was not until roughly three years ago that Weaver learned of the connection her grandfather, U.S. Army Pvt. Ralph Wahnee, had with the WWII code talker program. Wahnee was one of the 21 Comanche service members handpicked by the government to participate in the elite group. The U.S. Army gave the Comanche code talkers free reign to develop secret Comanche code words that no one outside the group would be able to understand, including other Comanches. Comanche code talkers were also sent overseas to fight in Europe and alongside allied troops as they landed on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day.
In the military and non-Indian world, recognition for the code talkers was slow to develop, but in 1989, the French government awarded the Comanche code talkers the Chevalier of the National Order of Merit, a very high honor. In Nov. 2013, Weaver's grandmother accepted a Congressional Gold Medal on behalf Wahnee during a ceremony in the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center's Emancipation Hall in Washington, D.C.
American Indians have made vast impacts and have overcome adversity. They continue to serve their families, their communities, and their country. Throughout history, they have demonstrated the importance of their tribal languages to the world and helped preserve them for the future.
Although there are no Comanche code talkers alive today, Weaver stated that she will always remember how her family and heritage played a major role in the country's history. Weaver only learned of her grandfather's service, and his oath to never speak of the code talkers until after his passing, a few years ago. Wahnee's humbleness and dedicated service helped mold and define Weaver's own morals and values as an intelligence specialist and Sailor in U.S. Navy.
"As I have become more aware and learned of how important Native Americans were to the military, I have had a renewed sense of heritage and feel that I am now a reflection and ambassador to my tribe and to all Native Americans," said Weaver.