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Face of Defense: Soldier Follows Grandfather’s Path

By Army Spc. Jerry Ellis
4th Infantry Division

WASHINGTON, Sept. 30, 2010 – Army Pfc. Chelsea Draper joined the Army, she said, to follow in the footsteps of her beloved grandfather, a decorated Marine Corps veteran of World War II.

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Army Pfc. Chelsea Draper poses with her grandfather, retired Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Teddy Draper Sr., a decorated World War II veteran and a member of the famed Navajo “Code Talkers.” Courtesy photo

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Serving here with Forward Support Command, 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Advise and Assist Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, Draper said her grandfather, Teddy Draper Sr., was one of the celebrated Navajo “Code Talkers.”

“Even at a young age, I could see the pride my grandfather took in having served his country, and I also understood the sacrifices he made,” Draper said, noting she and her grandfather both hail from Chinle, Ariz.

Code talkers transmitted coded messages over radio and telephone utilizing the Navajo language, or Diné Ke’Ji, which was undecipherable by the enemy.

Draper said she grew up very close to her grandfather during her youth, having heard him recite stories of his military service. He retired as a sergeant major. During his career he’d received a Purple Heart, the Congressional Gold Medal, and his own personal Congressional Silver Medal, along with numerous other honors.

“I miss her, and I worry about her,” Draper Sr. said of his granddaughter. “But America needs its defenders.”

Draper said she has traveled a long way from the beautiful red-rocked mesas of Arizona to the golden sands of Iraq. Growing up on a reservation, she said she was raised, like her grandfather, within the culture of the Navajo people.

“I speak and write in our native Navajo language in addition to English, following in a tradition our clan has kept alive as part of their heritage -- along with their religion, beliefs, legends and values,” she said.

When Draper was considering carrying on the family tradition of military service, she said her grandfather didn’t coax her at all. But when she told him she had decided to join the Army, she recalled how proud he was of her.

“He gave me his full support, calling me ‘My Soldier,’” she said.

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