LUKACHUKAI, Ariz. — Another member of a heroic, but shrinking, group of men is gone.

Navajo Code Talker Jerry C. Begay Sr. died May 26 — Memorial Day — in Albuquerque. Begay, 83, was born in Sheep Springs and attended Toadlena School.

He enlisted at the age of 17 in the United States Marine Corps as a student at Fort Wingate High School. Begay served in the second Marine division, 297th Platoon, as a Code Talker. A Purple Heart recipient, Begay served in Tarawa during the American invasion of the Japanese island. He served with distinction and was honorably discharged in 1945.

Shortly after the war, Begay worked with Phelps Dodge Copper Mining Company in Morenci, Ariz., and retired in 1982. He provided community service in Tsaile and Lukachukai, including working for the Tsaile Health Center.

Begay was married to Ella Sorrelman Begay of Lukachukai. He is survived by his children, Jerry C. Begay Jr., Daniel C. Begay, Priscilla Begay Coutu and Verna Begay Lopez. He was preceded in death by his daughter, Evangeline Begay Alvarez.

Begay received a Congressional Silver Medal of Honor in November 2001 for his Code Talker service in the U.S. Marine Corps. He remained active with the Navajo Code Talkers Association and with the Disabled American Veterans.

He is the son of Clauschee Begay and Hasktlishnii Bist'i. He was a member of the Kinlichii'nii people, and was born for the Dzil tl'ahnii people.