Navajo Code Talker Joe Vandever, Sr. dies at 96

Navajo Code Talker Joe Vandever, Sr. died Friday morning in New Mexico at the age of 96.

Vandever enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1943 and served in the northern Solomons, Bougainville, Emirau Islands, Guam, Marianas Islands, Okinawa, Ryukyus Islands, Occupation of Japan, and Occupation of China.

He was honorably discharged in 1946.

“The Navajo people have lost another great warrior who sacrificed more than we’ll ever know to defend our country. On behalf of the Navajo Nation, we offer our prayers and heartfelt condolences to his children, and many other loved ones,” Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said.

Vandever is survived by his sister, sons, daughters, 36 grandchildren, 55 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild.

Vandever was married for 73 years to his wife, Bessie, who died last year.

Vandever's death leaves less than a handful of Navajo Code Talkers still alive. He will be buried at the Santa Fe National Cemetery. Arrangements are pending.

“Navajo Code Talker Joe Vandever, Sr. was a great warrior and a compassionate family man. In every aspect of his life, he was a loving person who cared greatly for his people."

— Navajo Nation Vice President Myron Lizer

The Associated Press contributed to this report