“I’m finally going home,” Dan Akee sighed, as he saw the answer to the prayer he had been saying for years become a reality. Dan Akee lives in Tuba City, Arizona, less than 60 miles from the east entrance to Grand Canyon National Park, and is one of the last living WWII Code Talkers. He wants to go home for Christmas. The ninety-four year old Marine has been praying to go back to the home he built with own hands after the war. In October, the Western Agency of the Navajo Department of Veterans Affairs became aware that Mr. Akee was living in an unsafe situation and wanted nothing more than to return to the home he was forced to abandon when the roof started leaking.
With funding only for new houses, Eunice Begay, Veteran Service Officer reached out to Red Feather Development Group, a 20-year-old non-profit that partners with Native communities on housing needs. Together the two groups decided to get started on the project while raising money along the way. Once word reached local community members, support started pouring in — in the form of materials donations, skilled and unskilled volunteers as well as meals for the workers. A crowd funding campaign was also launched on generosity.com which raised almost $16,000 in less than two weeks.
With the new roof, windows and exterior doors already installed, plans are on track to have the remaining work finished before Christmas.
That is, if fund raising goals are met. According to Norena Gutierrez, Communications Director for Red Feather, remaining work includes drywall installation, bathroom and kitchen renovations, and a wheelchair ramp.
Red Feather Development Group’s Executive Director Mark Hall said in a press release, “The involvement from the local community has been inspiring to see.” The veterans office lent their twelve-person professional home building crew and donated building materials as did the Tuba City Chapter House. Russell Begaye, President of the Navajo Nation, brought his staff and was among the hardest working volunteers, which also included several veterans from all over the Navajo Nation and a number of Tuba City High School carpentry, ROTC and honor society students. Over 500 volunteer hours have been donated so far.
Bradford Kaye, lead foreman for the project, a graduate of Tuba City High School is responsible for managing a crew of paid local professionals and volunteers, managing materials orders and donations, making sure everyone is safe and that work is of high quality and completed according to schedule.
Dan Akee is one of twelve Navajo code talkers left in the United States. He was one of 44,000 Native Americans who served in the US Military during WWII and one of the 450 Navajo code talkers trained to code and decode secret messages. Sergeant Major Akee is one of three code talkers still alive from his regiment.
Dan Akee currently lives on the Navajo reservation with his wife, Margaret. They raised twelve children in this house. Danny Akee, the eldest son, had tears in his eyes as he saw the renovation starting to happen. He said, “Dad is going to get his wish because of Red Feather; I can’t tell you what this means to all of us.”
Red Feather is slated to complete raising $55,000 in the next few weeks to finish the house that became unlivable six years ago due to the leaky
roof, the broken windows and lack of heat. Dan Akee is in a wheelchair full time and was recently hospitalized for pneumonia. Akee took part in some of the worst fighting in WWII including tours at
Marshall Islands, Saipan, Tinian and two campaigns at Iwo Jima. During the war, the Navajo code talk was never broken by the Japanese.
3 WAYS TO GIVE TO THE DAN AKEE GOING HOME RED FEATHER RENOVATION PROJECT:
- Go to the Red Feather Development Group website and donate directly at www.redfeather.org
- Go to Generosity.com and contribute to the Dan Akee Going Home crowd funder
- Call Red Feather Development Group in Flagstaff, AZ at 928-440-5119 and let them know what in-kind donation you would like to make or if you have a volunteer organization that can provide renovation labor.
For more information:
Red Feather Development Group, a non-profit organization
2501 N. 4th Street, Suite 17, Flagstaff, AZ 86004