About 10 Bakersfield Young Marines learned a critical piece of military history and the significant role of the Navajo Code Talkers during World War II when they got a chance to meet with the veterans in Window Rock, Ariz.

They were among some 220 Young Marines who traveled from different parts of the country to connect with and honor the veteran Navajo Code Talkers in Arizona last month. In California, six of the Young Marines units attended, including those from Bakersfield and Camp Pendleton. Seventeen veteran Navajo code talkers were praised at the National Code Talker Day.

Michael Smith, coordinator of Navajo Code Talker Day and son of Samuel Smith, Navajo Code Talker, said the event served as an opportunity to educate the Young Marines about the living heroes who served in some of the fiercest battles of the Pacific.

Although the Code Talkers in the United States Marine Corps aided in the U.S. and its allies' campaign to win the war by sending tactical messages in their native language in the Pacific, they were never allowed to discuss their work with anyone. Sending codes in their Navajo language was vital since the Japanese military could hear the message but could not understand or break the code, officials said. Most Americans did not know about their key role until much later.

Robert Cannon, unit commander of the Bakersfield Young Marines, said the local youth who attended as well as the three accompanying adults assigned to the unit found the trip as an "eye-opening experience." The Bakersfield Young Marines is a nonprofit group that is supported by the Marine Corps League and is a youth education and service program for boys and girls, ages 8 through 18. It focuses on an anti-drug message and community service. Principles, such as teamwork, discipline and leadership, are key components.

Cannon noted that the Young Marines got a chance to meet with them, learn about their history, serve as their escorts, participate in a Navajo Nation parade and visit the Navajo museum.

"They were excited that they got to learn about these World War II veterans, and just honoring them at a banquet, it was an amazing experience," Cannon said.


The annual colorful Artfest returns this month and is sure to inspire locals who get a chance to explore the work of young budding artists of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Kern County.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Kern County Artfest 2014 will be held from 6 to 10 p.m. Sept. 20 at the Bakersfield Marriott at the Convention Center and will feature auctions showcasing the work of professional and young artists.

Sponsored by the Boys & Girls Club Foundation of Kern County, organizers say Artfest raises money to support their fine arts program as well as other programs of the Boys & Girls Clubs' 52 locations. Organizers said the Boys & Girls Club serves about 7,000 children per day.

The donated work of the young artists who are part of the Boys & Girls Club's KidzArt Program often steals the show. However, some of the professional artists who also donate their work attend the event, giving supporters a chance to meet with them.

"Artfest represents the positive development of youth in an area that gives them a sense of accomplishment, influence and meaningful impact on their community," said Zane Smith, executive director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Kern County. "The young artists donate an individual piece or pieces for the auction, and the proceeds fund art materials and classes for the following year. Children not only experience success as selling artists, but also the satisfaction of supporting their own program."

Tickets are $75 a person. For more information, call 325-3730.


Kern Schools Federal Credit Union will be hosting a Community Recycling Day Saturday. The event will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the new Kern Schools administrative office parking lot, 11500 Bolthouse Drive.

BARC will be accepting personal shreds (limit of three banker boxes) and recyclables, including cans, glass, plastics, cardboard, books and paper. The ALIANZA Recycling and Recovery LLC will be accepting e-waste, such as computer monitors and towers, TVs, cellphones and radios. Kern Green will be accepting used shoes, which will be donated. Houchin Community Blood Bank will be holding a blood drive at the event. Informational booths include Kern Schools, Golden Empire Habitat for Humanity ReStore, Keep Bakersfield Beautiful, Bakersfield Police Department and more. Organizers say there will chances to win prizes as well. For more information visit ksfcu.org/recycling.

Bank support

Kudos to Bank of America for its recent donation to a number of charities in the Central Valley. Wrapping up the third quarter of 2014, BofA officials say the bank has already awarded $373,000 to 28 nonprofits in the Central Valley, including Bakersfield.

Organizers say the grants will support education, jobs, affordable housing and neighborhood revitalization -- areas vital to creating healthy communities.

Some of the awarded local organizations include:

* FOOD Inc. (Community Food Bank) to help fund increased demand.

* United Way of Kern County: to support the Kern VITA Partnership, which seeks to provide free tax preparation to more than 5,000 residents.

Olivia Garcia is editor of Bakersfield Life and BWell magazines and a columnist of The Bakersfield Californian. These are her opinions, not necessarily those of The Bakersfield Californian. Send her tips at ogarcia@bakersfield.com.