Louis Levi Oakes kept a big secret most of his life. Saturday, hundreds of people celebrated what Oakes did, and the secret he kept.
Oakes died Tuesday, at the age of 94.
He was the last living Akwesasne Mohawk ‘code talker,’ who used his native language for military communications in the South Pacific during World War II, Japan was never able to understand the language, and the code talkers were eventually hailed as heroes of the war.
But for many years, the work Oakes and others did was secret.
“They told him not to talk. You didn’t tell nobody. Not even his family. … The oath they took was don’t tell anybody what you do,” recalled Michael Cook, commander of Andrew W. Cook American Legion Post 1479 Saturday.
Oakes’s funeral was Saturday, at Akwesasne, east of Massena.
When Oakes was in his 90s, the secret came out. He was awarded a Congressional Silver Medal. He was recognized at ceremonies. Oakes got to do things he always wanted to do.
“He always wanted to go to Washington and here we go on the trip with the honor flight. Which was amazing for him,” said Dora Oakes, his daughter.
Oakes’ funeral It included a procession down Route 37, with hundreds of motorcycles, and a fly-over by helicopters from Fort Drum.
“We wanted to honor him in a special way and as an aviation battalion that was an opportunity that we had,” said John Miller, Commander 3rd Battalion, 10th Aviation Regiment.
And Tekarhatenies Jocko honored her great-great grandfather in the language he once used in war, with song.
“If it wasn’t for the code talkers, we might have been speaking a different language here. It wouldn’t be the United States,” said MIchael Cook, the American Legion commander.