Area residents will have a variety of programs to choose from as Veterans Day is commemorated next week.
World War II Navajo code talker Peter MacDonald Sr. will be in Southwest Michigan and Northern Indiana for four days of presentations, starting Nov. 11 in Buchanan. He will be speaking three times in Buchanan, twice on Nov. 11 and once on Nov. 12, in Dowagiac at Southwestern Michigan College on Nov. 13, and twice at the University of Notre Dame on Nov. 14.
MacDonald will speak at 11 a.m. Nov. 11 at the Buchanan American Legion, at 7 p.m. at Buchanan High School and at 1:30 p.m. Nov. 12 in front of Buchanan High School students. The SMC presentation is set for 5 p.m. Nov. 13 in the Lyons Theater on the Dowagiac campus. The Notre Dame presentations will be at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Nov. 14 in the Jordan Auditorium in the Mendoza College of Business.
MacDonald enlisted in the U.S. Marines at age 15 and was selected along with other Navajo Marines for the top secret Navajo Code School. He served from 1944-46. He later got degrees in engineering and worked at Hughes Aircraft on the Polaris Missile Guidance System. MacDonald was chairman of the Navajo Nation from 1971-83 and 1987-91.
The Navajo Code offers a unique World War II legacy, as the U.S. military used it and the Navajo Nation members who spoke and knew the language to transmit top secret and confidential messages – a code never broken by the enemy. MacDonald is one of only eight living Navajo code talkers.
They were credited with saving thousands of lives and shortening the war in the Pacific. MacDonald received the Congressional Silver Medal for his heroic service. He now serves as president of the Navajo Code Talkers Museum and Veteran Center in Arizona.
Eau Claire’s annual “Salute to Our Veterans” tribute also takes place Monday at Eau Claire High School. Dinner will be provided for veterans from 5:30-6:30 p.m., with the program to follow at 7 p.m. Veterans can bring one guest each for the free dinner.
The event is sponsored every year by the Southwestern Michigan Veterans Support Group. Organizer Jo Herman said this year marks the 18th year for the dinner, which draws hundreds of veterans not only from this area but from around the country.
The program will feature music, the presentation of colors honoring all five military branches, and a speech from Berrien Springs native Col. Christopher Borchardt. He is an Air Force flight surgeon and pilot and has been deployed throughout the Middle East. He is currently assigned to the Air Force Research Laboratory.
For information about parking or shuttle buses to the gym, or other questions, call Joe (269-782-8796) or Ted (269-461-3570 or cell – 269-635-9508).
In addition, Cassopolis resident, author and Army veteran Taras Lyssenko will speak that same day at Lake Michigan College. The presentation will begin at 12:30 p.m. in the Blue Lecture Hall in the main building on the college’s Benton Township campus. The program and discussion is free and open to the public.
Lyssenko recently published “The Great Navy Birds of Lake Michigan: The True Story of the Privateers of Lake Michigan and the Aircraft They Rescued.” It details the work of his company, A and T Recovery, over the last three-plus decades to recover military aircraft lost in Lake Michigan during World War II.
“This presentation is not just for history and aviation buffs,” Lyssenko said. “It’s for people who want to understand who we are as a people. It’s also about American government and public relations and how we interact politically and socially. … It is a micro study of American humanities and an odyssey within a realm no others have dared to enter.”
His company has worked with the National Naval Aviation Museum and been able to rescue dozens of aircraft from Lake Michigan. Several of the recovered planes can be found in museums around the country, including at the Kalamazoo Air Zoo, as well as at Midway and O’Hare International Airports in Chicago.