Members of the Tampa Bay Young Marines recently traveled to Arizona to meet and celebrate Navajo code talkers from WWII. There the Young Marines climbed the Navajo Talkers Monument in Window Rock.

The Tampa Bay Young Marines, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit program, meets monthly in Riverview, where U.S. Marine veteran Brian Frank serves as unit commander for the local chapter of this national youth organization focused on leadership, citizenship, self-discipline and living a healthy, drug-free life.

Beyond drill training on the second and fourth Saturday of the month, at the Ruskin Memorial VFW Post 6287, young recruits learn, among other things, teamwork, leadership and discipline skills, as well as military terms, jargon, rank structure, customs and courtesies.

Tampa Bay Young Marines is open to girls and boys ages 8-18 and includes unique opportunities, such as the Young Marines National Leadership Academy and its junior, senior and advanced leadership programs.

In August, Zachary Zeliff, a Tampa Bay Young Marine, and his father, Michael Zeliff, a veteran U.S. Marine, joined more than 175 Young Marines nationwide to meet Navajo code talkers and their families, who each year, on August 14, are celebrated in Window Rock, Arizona. While there, they worked as escorts for these special veterans and participated in a community service cleanup at the Navajo Nation Zoo. They also climbed the Window Rock monument and marched in the Navajo Code Talker Day Parade.

“Meeting these soldiers who selflessly gave of themselves, and their heritage, is a life-changing experience for our Young Marines and adult volunteers,” said veteran William P. Davis, national executive director and CEO of Young Marines. “The Young Marines are helping to preserve the legacy of these very special veterans. They will not be forgotten.”

According to Frank, these remarkable patriots served their country by transmitting top-secret messages via telephone and radio across enemy lines during World War II, which the Japanese never could decode.

“The Navajo language itself is pretty difficult to learn,” Frank said. “Then, when you add code to it, it’s almost unbreakable. There wasn’t a whole lot of encryption back then like there is today.”

Frank is with the Walter P. Ryan Marine Corps League Detachment 1226 in Riverview, which he said provides some assistance to Tampa Bay Young Marines, one of the 238 units with 6,400 youth and 2,750 adult volunteers in 40 states, the District of Columbia, Japan (Okinawa) and a host of other countries.

The local unit aims “to do some serious fundraising” — to take Tampa Bay Young Marines, as a group, to Honolulu, Hawaii next year — for National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.

For more on Tampa Bay Young Marines, visit Call Frank at 813-463-3130.

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