Meskwaki, 32 other tribes receive high honors for code talkers - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Meskwaki, 32 other tribes receive high honors for code talkers

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (KWWL) - Congress is bestowing the Congressional Gold Medal, its highest civilian honor, on American Indians who used their native language to outwit enemies and protect American battlefield secrets during World Wars I and II.

Dozens of members of Congress, the military and others gathered in the Capitol's Emancipation Hall on Wednesday to honor 33 tribes from 11 states for the wartime contributions of so-called code talkers.

Descendants of code talkers and representatives from the tribes were in attendance at the ceremony.

House Speaker John Boehner says members of tribes from across the country served bravely during the world wars, using "the simplest weapon - their language." He says thousands of lives were saved because of their bravery.

Iowa congressional leaders were on hand to congratulate local tribes.

U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley congratulated the Meskwaki tribe in particular.

"The Code Talkers who served during World War I and World II performed a remarkable job that no one else could," Braley said in a statement Wednesday. "They were sent to war as young boys where their unbreakable code saved thousands of lives as they deceived our enemies time after time. They returned home as quiet heroes, sworn to secrecy and unable to discuss their experience with even their closest family.

"At the ceremony today, members of the Meskwaki tribe were present to honor their ancestors who served as Code Talkers," he continued. "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."

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley also helped honor Meskwaki tribe members at the ceremony.

“The ceremony was long overdue but the recognition was heartfelt,” Grassley said in a statement Wednesday. “All of us are grateful for the contribution of the Meskwaki members and others who 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.”

Congress previously awarded the Gold Medal to code talkers in 2008. Wednesday's ceremony was for more than two dozen tribes not included in that initial honor.

Associated Press writer HENRY C. JACKSON contributed to this report.

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