The last Akwesasne Mohawk code talker is laid to rest

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Louis Levi Oakes (inset)

Dozens of veterans, soldiers, tribe members, family, friends, and many others gathered at the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation in northern New York on Saturday, June 1, to honor and lay to rest Louis Levi Oakes, the last Akwesasne Mohawk code talker from World War II.

Oakes died on May 28. He was 94.

"He touched the lives of everyone who met him and will be missed by many, particularly by his loved ones," the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe said in a statement.

Oakes was among 17 Akwesasne Mohawks awarded the Congressional Silver Medal in 2016 for their service as Native American code talkers in the U.S. military, according to the tribe.

Code talkers communicated U.S. military coded messages based on their native language, which proved impossible for the enemy to crack.

Oakes enlisted in the Army when he was 18 and trained with other members of the Mohawk tribe to become code talkers. He then served with the 442nd Signal Battalion in the South Pacific theater during the war and was awarded the Silver Star.

Soldiers with the 10th Mountain Division and 10th Combat Aviation Brigade presided over a military funeral for Oakes. Nine soldiers from the famed 6th Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment served as pallbearers and also fired a traditional funeral rifle volley, according to the U.S. Army.

Lt. Col. John Miller III, the commander of the 3rd Battalion, 10th Aviation Regiment, said in a statement that he was honored to be a part of the nation's final farewell to Oakes.

"His contribution to the success of our allied forces during World War II is immeasurable. He saved lives and secured a safer world for all of us," Miller said. "Our thanks seem small in comparison to his sacrifice, but we can never stop expressing our gratitude for his important work."

In recent years, Oakes received numerous recognitions for his service. In 2018, he was inducted into the New York State Senate Veterans' Hall of Fame. Soon after, he was awarded the New York State Liberty Medal.