United States Marines
David E. Patterson Sr. of Rio Rancho, N.M., is among an elite group of marines who helped create the only unbroken code in modern military history. As one of the Navajo Code Talkers, David and other Navajos coded and decoded classified military dispatches during WWII using a code derived from their native tongue. The Code Talkers took part in every Marine assault, from Guadalcanal in 1942 to Okinawa in 1945, including the Marshall Islands, Kwajalein, Iwo Jima, and Saipan, and doubtless helped win the war. After he was discharged, David, now 90, went to college in Oklahoma and New Mexico, becoming a social worker. He married and raised his family on the reservation in Shiprock, N.M., and worked for the Navajo Nation's Division of Social Services until retiring in 1987. He was awarded the Silver Congressional Medal of Honor in 2001 and up until last year volunteered in a Shiprock school on the Navajo Reservation as a foster grandparent.