I am Navajo - Navajo Code talkers inspire US Marine on Okinawa

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jonathan Beauchamp
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jonathan Beauchamp

I am Navajo - Navajo Code talkers inspire US Marine on Okinawa

by Lance Cpl. Jonathan Beauchamp
Marine Corps Installations Pacific

“I never saw the significance of the statue until I was a senior in high school, “said Benally. “After understanding their sacrifices, that statue pushed me to want to carry on their title, be where they had been, and be what they were.”

A few days later, Benally found a Marine Corps recruiter. When he walked through the doors, he did not need any encouragement to join the Marine Corps because before walking in, he had made up his mind. After graduating high school Benally was off to San Diego, California, to go to Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego.

World upside-down

As Benally was on an old white bus, heading for what would be his new home for the next 13 weeks, he could hear what seemed like a roar of an old manual drive bus. He had his head down and eyes closed for hours because his imagination and nerves ran high. “What is going on? What should I do? I want to do this, but can I?” Those thoughts were going through his head.

Suddenly the roar of the bus stopped, and the screams of a man rang. Before Benally could even understand what was happening, he ran behind a drill instructor, yelling Marine Corps history, learning Marine Corps customs and courtesies, first aid, drill, and hand-to-hand combat.

After completing the four-week mark, Benally continued to weeks five through seven. Throughout those weeks, he learned the fundamentals of marksmanship. During this time, Benally would come to the firing range, before the sun rose, and learn how to shoot at stagnant targes anywhere from 25-yards to 500-yards away. By the end of week seven, Benally's best friend was his rifle.

During weeks nine and 10, Benally completed the program's most challenging event known as the Crucible. The Crucible is a 54-hour field event that tests recruits' skills on Marine Corps history, marksmanship, and basic infantry tactics. The recruits who completed the challenges were then awarded their eagle, globe and anchor, symbolizing the transformation from recruit to Marine.

“For me, the best part about recruit training was when I climbed up Reaper Mountain,” said Benally. “When I made it to the top of the mountain, I was proud to not only hold the title of Marine but also stand where my nation's first Marines stood.”

After completing recruit training in 2018, U.S. Marine Corps Pfc. Eathen Benally, an engineer equipment operator with 3rd Landing Support Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 3, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, came to Okinawa, Japan. After being promoted to sergeant in 2020, Benally began overseeing job proficiency training for junior Marines, management of workflow and job stations, and informing command of day-to-day operations. In order to do this though, he prioritizes his mental and physical well-being at the beginning of each day as accustomed to his culture and way of life.

Growing up in an agricultural community, working hard was not a foreign concept for Benally, but a reality. Every day before going to work, Benally goes for a run. He uses this time to not only better himself physically but also to admire Okinawa's nature. Above all else, he prioritizes his spiritual health by praying, before starting his day.

“Before I start my run, it is important to me to pray before the sun rises, and give thanks for a new day,” said Benally. “When I pray, I always face the sunrise and take a small pinch of corn pollen from my Tádídíín bag. In my native tongue, I thank my god for my life, families, and friends. It is important that I do this before the sun rises because my ancestors are always watching over me.”

Photo Caption:
U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Eathen Benally, an engineer equipment operator with 3rd Landing Support Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 3, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, poses for a photo with the Navajo Nation flag on Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan, Sept. 27, 2022. Benally, a White Cone, Arizona native, joined the Marine Corps in 2019. Now at the rank of sergeant, he continues to stay grounded in the Navajo Nation culture and is proud of his tribes accomplishments in the Marine corps.

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