Authorizing Use of Emancipation Hall for Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony for Native American Code Talkers

Floor Speech

Date: Nov. 18, 2013
Location: Washington, DC

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The Cherokee Nation has a rich history of pride and heritage inside this country. At a very young age, I had the special privilege of meeting a gentleman, another former member of the Cherokee Nation, Wayne Russell.

Wayne Russell was taken care of by my grandparents. My grandad, Kenneth Morris, is also a Cherokee member, who fought in the European theatre as a combat engineer. Wayne Russell was a neighbor of my granddad.

My grandmother and granddad took care of Wayne until he passed away. At a young age, I got the privilege of getting to know him. We share the same birthday, and so it was a common bond for us. Wayne used to tell me stories of how he got to use his native language to help this great Nation win a war against a group of individuals that had very bad intentions not just in our country, but in this world.

Wayne never asked for anything. Wayne simply stood up each day and did his job when he was in uniform. When he came home, he didn't ask for anybody to give him anything. He didn't ask for a handout. He was just proud to serve.

Before I even knew what code talkers were, Wayne used to tell me about it all the time, because he used to teach the Cherokee language in the school I went to in Westfield. So Wayne would talk to me in our native tongue and tell me about the stories that he had from the war.

He didn't realize he was special. I didn't really realize he was special. But today, I get to stand up and talk about him. What an honor it is for me to stand on this House floor as a Member of the United States Congress and get to bring Wayne Russell's name up and tell people what he did.

Wayne has passed. When he left, he left me all his medals. And we get to stand up this week and vote on something to honor not just Cherokee members, but the members of Native Americans in Indian Country all across this great Nation that didn't ask for anything, but just simply did their job. They didn't realize they were special; they just did what it took to win. Because we have pride in Indian Country. We take great pride in this great country we call America. And for us to stand up and speak up for them, what an opportunity for this House to reach across the aisle and show bipartisan support to honor a group of people.

So it is an honor to stand up here, Mr. Speaker, and it is an honor that the gentlelady from Michigan has given me time to talk about Wayne Russell and something important to me.

I urge my colleagues to support this. Let's stand together and say ``thank you'' to a group of people that is well overdue.

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