Flags across the Navajo Nation are whipping in the wind at half mast this weekend, as Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly ordered the move in honor of Sgt. Jimmie Begay.
Begay, a Navajo Code Talker walked on February 1 at the Tsehootsoi Medical Center in Fort Defiance, Arizona. He was 88.
“I am deeply saddened by the loss of Sgt. Begay. His efforts to defend this country and his people make me proud. My prayers, and the prayers of the First Lady, the Vice President and the Navajo Nation are with the family,” Shelly said.
The flags will be flown at half mast until February 5 in honor the Navajo Veteran who trained as a Code Talker at Camp Eliot before serving in the 1st Marine Division, 2nd Battalion during campaigns at Guadalcanal, Bougainville, Guam, Saipan, and Tinian in the midst of World War II.
Begay was 17 when he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in November 1942. Begay grew up in Sawmill, Arizona and upon being honorably discharged in 1945 finished his schooling at Santa Fe Indian High School. He worked as a guard at the Army Depot-Japanese Internment Camp in Leupp, Arizona, and compted in boxing before venturing into the Navajo Forest Products Industry until he retired in 1985.
For his services during the war, Begay earned numerous commendations, including the Congressional Silver Medal in 2001.
He is preceded in death by his wife, Sophie Begay; parents, Carl Begay and Nazbah Blackgoat; brothers, Kenneth M. Begay and Kee Begay; sisters, Ruth Stewart and Lottie Randall; son, Perry Begay.
Begay is survived by his son, Thurman Begay of Sawmill, Arizona; grandchildren, Jacquelyn A. Begay and Janelle R. Begay of Sawmill, Arizona, Scott Begay and Rhonda Roan of Albuquerque, New Mexico; and five great-grandchildren.
Funeral services are scheduled for Saturday, February 4 at the Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament in Fort Defiance, Arizona. He will be buried at the family cemetery in Red Lake, New Mexico.