PHOENIX — Arizona has a new state holiday.

Gov. Doug Ducey signed a bill Monday to honor Native Americans who used their language to transmit coded messages during World War II.

Arizona has recognized code talkers by proclamation and through legislation for years. The bill sponsored by state Sen. Jamescita Peshlakai makes Aug. 14 a state holiday. It will be observed on a Sunday when state offices already are closed.

While hundreds of Navajos were recruited as code talkers, about a dozen Hopis and members of other tribes also covertly sent wartime messages.

Peshlakai, Navajo, said it’s important that Arizonans remember their service and bravery. Less than a handful of Navajo Code Talkers are still alive.

“It’s important that all Arizonans remember the service and bravery of the Navajo Code Talkers,” Peshlakai said. “Their crucial service during WWII will not be forgotten, and we will continue to honor them every August 14th."

The Navajo Nation celebrates Aug. 14 as a tribal holiday, marking the date Japan announced it would surrender to the Allied forces. The annual ceremony typically is held in person but was moved online last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s wonderful to have the State of Arizona honor and recognize the sacrifices and contributions of the Navajo Code Talkers," Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said. "It’s long overdue. We only have a few Navajo Code Talkers with us to this day, but we pay tribute to all of them and their families. Their legacy is strengthened with today’s signing of this bill and we hope that this will also help to share the stories of our Code Talkers so that many more people throughout the state are aware of everything that they gave for our country."

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