William "Ozzie" Sheakley, U.S. Army, 1969-71

Ozzie Sheakely is the Commander of the Southeast Alaska Native Veterans

William “Ozzie” Sheakley

William “Ozzie” Sheakley was living in Juneau and working for the U.S. Post Office when his draft notice arrived in 1969.  The postmaster, Larry Jackson said Ozzie’s job would be waiting for him when he returned from his service. 

His basic training was in Fort Lewis, Washington and his advanced training in Fort Ord, California.  Ozzie said that boot camp “kind of fun.  They would push you until they broke you so they could rebuild you.  They used to say to me ‘Hi, Chief’.  How did they know I was a chief?”

Ozzie was then assigned to be an MP (Military Police).  Later, he was sent him to Frankfurt, Germany because he could type.  He was stationed in Worms, a city in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany, situated on the Upper Rhine about 40 miles south-southwest of Frankfurt. 

When the United States learned that Israel might be attacked, Mr. Sheakley was put in a secret headquarters with no telephones.  The Army used ticker tapes to convey information from Israel, to Ozzies’ desk, to the United States, and in reverse: from the U.S. to Ozzie’s desk to Israel.   He was told that he wasn’t supposed to talk about this incident for 10 years.  Ozzie and the other Army personnel were not allowed to leave the building, other solders had to bring them food until the incident ended. 

With the help of Ed Thomas and Tlingit & Haida (Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska) Ozzie helped start the Southeast Alaska Native Veterans.  They invited all SE veterans to join when people came to town for the Tlingit & Haida convention.  Ozzie Sheakley is the current Commander of the SE Alaska Native Veterans 

As Commander of the Southeast Alaska Native Veterans, he got a call from the U.S. Mint.  “A lady said President Obama ordered her to get the medals for all the Code Talkers in the country”.  She said she found three in Southeast Alaska; Ozzie knew who they were.  The same lady called six months later and said there were two more, Victor Bean and Jeff David. 

Ozzie designed the medal to honor the code talkers, he made it a killer whale design.  After it was made, he was asked to represent the tribe and go pick them up in Washington, D.C.  They were made out of gold.  Once in D.C., Ozzie was entrusted with the old medals plus five silver medals to go to the families of the code talkers.  When he went to pick he medals up, he didn’t know it was such a big deal.  “I got calls from the LA Times, New York Times, and about 100 photographers were there when they handed me the medal, flash bulbs popping like crazy.”

He brought them back to Alaska and they had a ceremony in Hoonah where the medals were presented to the surviving code talkers and their families.  The ceremony was repeated at the ANB Hall in Juneau- there was a big turnout to see the gold code talker medals. 

Ozzie is a strong supporter of the newly constituted Hoonah Veterans Committee.  “The stories I heard from other veterans are gone now.  It would be good to record those.  There’s a lot of good stories out there.” 

Thanks in good part to Hoonah veteran Ozzie Sheakley, those stories will live on for generations to come.