NEW TOWN The late Everett Dale “Johnny” Bear’s children never knew their father was a code talker during World War II.
“Not until a month ago,” said Bear’s son, Keith, of New Town. He said that was when a letter arrived, saying their father and other code talkers who were members of the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux tribes would be honored in Poplar, Mont. He said his father did tell their mother and the family that he had difficult times in the service.
On May 31, Keith Bear accepted a Congressional Silver Medal for code talkers on behalf of his father at the ceremony in the American Legion Park in Poplar, where 54 members of the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux tribes who were code talkers, including Everett Bear, were honored.
Members of the Myron B. Johnson/Nathan Good Iron American Legion Post 271 of Mandaree also participated in the ceremony.
The code talkers used their native languages that the enemies could not decode as a means of secret communication during World War II and ultimately, saved the lives of many military members.
The code talkers from 33 tribes including the Fort Peck Tribes, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other tribes were honored in a congressional ceremony in the nation’s Capitol in Washington, D.C., in November 2013 when the Congressional Gold Medal was presented.
Originally from the Fort Peck Reservation, Everett Bear lived on the Fort Berthold Reservation after he married the former Christine Little Owl. They met at school at Flandreau, S.D., he went to war and when he returned they married.
They lived in the New Town area where they raised their family, and he was a well-known musician in the area. He died in 1961. Christine Bear also is no longer living.
Fort Peck Tribes Chairman A.T. “Rusty” Stafne presented the medals to the families of code talkers at the ceremony in Poplar. The silver medals awarded were part of the presentation of more than 200 medals to the few surviving code talkers and families of those deceased in all parts of the country, according to John Plestina, in a story in The Herald-News and Culbertson Searchlight in Wolf Point, Mont.
The code talkers at the Poplar ceremony were members of Company B, 163rd Infantry Regiment, 41st Infantry Division, the newspaper said.
Plestina said one medal was awarded to Gilbert Horn Sr., of Havre, Mont., an Assiniboine member of the Fort Belknap Reservation, who is the only medal recipient during the Poplar ceremony who is living as well as one of the few code talkers nationwide who is alive. Horn was unable to attend the ceremony in Poplar.
Plestina said the Fort Peck tribes are continuing to seek any code talkers who might have been overlooked and anyone with information should contact Fort Peck Tribes.
Keith Bear said his father and the other code talkers honored in Poplar will also be receiving a Bronze Star and a Silver Star.
He said that other family members have also served in the military including himself, a Vietnam-era veterans who served with the 82nd Airborne Division. His four sons have served in the 82nd Airborne, Ranger and Special Forces, and two are still in the military. His daughter, an Army Reserve member, has served in Afghanistan.
Keith Bear said he hopes now to pursue learning more about his father’s service during World War II.
On receiving the Congressional Silver Medal on behalf of his father, he said, “It is very humbling to be part of this.”