A Tyler man will be headed to Washington, D.C., today to get the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor for his grandfather, who was a Comanche code talker during World War II.
Joe Martinez’ grandfather, Charles Chibitty, was among the 14 Comanche code talkers of the 4th Infantry Division. They helped with communications between the Allied Forces during major battles of the war.
“He was a selfless person,” Martinez said. “I would tell him that ‘You’re a hero’ and he’d say ‘No, the heroes are the ones that never came back. I was just doing a small part.’”
Martinez, a Comanche tribe designated storyteller for the World War II Comanche Code Talkers history, said that the honor is coming after many years of waiting.
“It’s long overdue,” he said.
Nearly 200 members of the Comanche Nation will be traveling to the ceremony, he said. Other tribes also will be attending, he added.
Chibitty was born near Lawton, Okla., and as a student in a government school where the Comanche language was discouraged, he decided to join the Army after getting permission from his parents.
The Comanche code talkers used 250 words in their language, Martinez said.
Chibitty served in the European Theater serving in the Sixth Army Signal Company of the 4th Infantry Division surviving the Battle of Normandy and Battle of the Bulge.
He earned the World War II Victory Medal, the European Theater of Operations Victory Medal with five Bronze stars, the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, the Good Conduct Medal and also Combat Infantryman badge.
In 1989, Chibitty and fellow code talkers were honored by the French government and named Knights of the National Order of Merit.
But Chibitty was not honored by the American government until President George W. Bush decided to award him the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor, Martinez said.
Chibitty refused the honor, saying that he did not deserve the medal until all code talkers were awarded the medal, he said.
Chibitty died in 2005 in Tulsa area hospital. He is buried in Broken Arrow, Okla.