One of a remaining few heroes from World War II died Sunday in New Mexico.
The Navajo Nation announced Code Talker David Patterson, Sr. died of pneumonia and complications from a subdural hematoma.
Patterson served in the Marine Corps from 1943 to 1945 and was the recipient of the Congressional Silver Medal, which was given to those who qualified as code talkers but were not part of the original 29.
Patterson was part of the U.S. military's program during World War II to use the Navajo language in communications between units fighting the Japanese in the Pacific.
“It’s a sad day on the Navajo Nation when we lose a national treasure like we did in losing Navajo Nation Code Talker David Patterson, Sr.,” Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye said in a statement announcing Patterson's death. “Beyond his service in protecting our freedom, he was a beloved husband, father and grandfather.
Patterson died in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, northeast of Albuquerque.
“The Navajo Nation salutes the service of our great warrior, Code Talker David Patterson, Sr., for his courage in protecting our lands,” said Vice President Jonathan Nez. “Whenever the Nation loses an elder, we lose a perspective of history that provides insight into our own lives. Our elders hold great wisdom and traditional perspectives. We need to continue to embrace intergenerational teaching and connections.”
Funeral services have not been determined, but will take place at Christ the King Catholic Church in Shiprock, New Mexico. Patterson will be buried on the military side of the Shiprock Cemetery.
An online fundraising page has been set up by Patterson's son to help pay for funeral expenses. Those who wish to donate can do so here.