SANTA FE, N.M. — Wind is thought of as a spiritual force in Navajo folklore and tradition. It also represents a means of communication. So it was appropriate that the spring wind was blowing hard Thursday during the dedication ceremony for a monument honoring Navajo Code Talkers at Santa Fe National Cemetery.
Cliff Shields, the cemetery’s director, also said the Santa Fe cemetery is a fitting site for the new memorial.
When he was approached by the New Mexico State Organization Daughters of the American Revolution, “I thought how appropriate it would be to have the monument in New Mexico,” he said, which encompasses a significant portion of the Navajo Nation.
The Navajo Code Talkers served as secret weapons for American forces in the Pacific Theatre during World War II. Using variations of the Diné language, they communicated messages through use of a code in the Pacific war theatre. The code was never broken and the code talkers’ contributions are said to have helped bring an end to the war and saved thousands of lives.
A plaque mounted on a stone foundation simply reads: “In honor of the Navajo Code Talkers for their sacrifice and courage to help ensure the United States’ victory during World War II.”
“It will pass on the legacy for what we were honored to do to our children, grandchildren and everyone down the line,” said Roy Hawthorne, of Lupton, Ariz.
Hawthorne was one of three code talkers present for the ceremony. Another was 91-year-old Chester Nez, who grew up near Gallup and now makes his home in Albuquerque, the last of the 29 original code talkers recruited by the U.S. Marines to carry out the task.
Brigadier General Andrew Salas of the New Mexico National Guard gave the keynote address, saying “their contributions will not be forgotten and are treasured in our hearts now and always.”
Zadeea Jean Graham Harris, the state regent for the Daughters of the American Revolution, said she always loved and respected the code talkers. Through her research, she found that there were no monuments for the Navajo Code Talkers in New Mexico and decided to do something about it.
“When people heard who it was for, I had no problem raising money,” she said.
There are other code talker memorials elsewhere, including in the Navajo national capital of Window Rock, Ariz.
Shields said the Santa Fe monument will serve as the centerpiece for a new memorial wall and walkway to be located at the cemetery. He said there’s space for 20 other monuments at the site, some of which will recognize military service branches.