Honoring Those Who Served
The Navajo Code Talkers
Across the Navajo Nation, the heart language of the Dine’ People has endured. If the policies of our government had been successful, there would be no more Navajo speakers today. Many of the tribal elders tell of their experiences as children being shipped off to government boarding school where speaking in their native tongue was forbidden and often punished.
In spite of this, the Navajo language has not only endured, but was a key component in the winning of World War II. In the Pacific Theatre, the Japanese had been successful at intercepting and decoding American radio messages. This meant that no information could be securely passed between American ships and planes and the land forces.
During the war, over 25,000 Native Americans responded to the call to serve their country. Over 3,000 of these were Navajo. A small group of Navajo serving in the Marine Corps were selected to develop a code that would help our forces win in the South Pacific. Eventually over 400 Navajo Marines would be trained and serve as Code Talkers. The Navajo Code Talkers fought throughout the Pacific Islands, and their contribution of a rapid, unbreakable code saved countless American lives.
To honor these heroes, President Ronald Reagan designated August 14th as National Navajo Code Talker Day. This recognition came almost 40 years after Japan announced its official surrender to the Allies on September 2, 1945, and 14 years after the government declassified the operation. Only then could the Code Talkers discuss their service and the details of the code. The example of the Navajo Code Talkers continues to inspire our generation.
God called some of these Navajo Code Talkers to share yet another vital message – the heart felt message of their faith in God.
“I am honored to have served my country through my military service in both World War II and the Korean War. I volunteered to serve in an elite group known as the Navajo Code Talkers. We used our Navajo language to relay vital communications on the front lines of combat in the South Pacific to help America win the war. Since retiring from serving my country in military service, I have been blessed to serve God as a pastor in my community. It has been my joy to speak to the younger generation about my experiences. I have no regrets for having invested my life in communicating the most vital message ever needed—the message of the Word of God!”
–Roy Hawthorne, Navajo Code Talker
Roy Hawthorne was born February 13, 1926, in Ganado, AZ. He enlisted in the Marine Corps at seventeen years of age. Upon completing his training at Camp Pendleton, he shipped out to Guadalcanal and later fought in the Battle of Okinawa. He served with the 1st Marine Division in the Pacific Theatre of World War II. He served our nation again in the Korean War.
Roy Hawthorne was highly respected for his character, his Christian faith, and his service to our country. In addition to his ministry in his community, he worked tirelessly to highlight and honor the extraordinary contributions of his fellow Navajo Code Talkers. He served as vice-president of the Navajo Code Talkers Association. For many years the voice of Pastor Roy Hawthorne, Navajo Code Talker, could be heard on the airwaves across the Navajo Nation on the “Semper Fidelis Gospel Time” radio broadcast. You can explore the archives and listen to Pastor Hawthorne preach in his own Navajo language by clicking here. On April 21, 2018, Roy Hawthorne completed his mission here on earth at the age of 92. He will be remembered as a warrior, a hero, and a man of God. His life’s message continues to speak to us.
“I accepted Christ as my Savior at Rehoboth Christian School. When I went to war, I carried my little Bible with me in my vest pocket. I read it often, finding comfort in Psalm 91. Whenever we went off to battle we would offer a prayer. There is fear when you’re in a war zone. As a Christian, I left everything up to God. If He wanted me to die there, so be it. If He wanted me to return, then that was His will.”
-Alfred K. Newman Sr., Navajo Code Talker
“Alfred K. Newman, Sr. was born in 1924 in Rehoboth, New Mexico and split his childhood between nearby Coolidge and the family homestead near Crystal, New Mexico. While living in Coolidge, he attended a one-room school where he picked up some Spanish from his mostly-Hispanic classmates. From the age of eight, he attended boarding school at Rehoboth Mission School, where he and the other students faced punishment for speaking in Navajo. Despite being punished himself for trying to help another boy who didn’t understand much English, Newman harbored no resentment for the treatment he received at school. Newman spent a great deal of time outdoors while herding his family’s sheep in the summers, and developed a love of nature and interest in observing wildlife that would last his entire life.
Attracted by the Marine Corps’ history and traditions, Alfred Newman enlisted at the age of 18 in early 1943. After completing boot camp in San Diego, Newman was sent on to the Navajo Communication School at Camp Elliott, where he was impressed with the secrecy surrounding his new assignment as a Code Talker trainee. After completing training, Newman was shipped overseas to Guadalcanal, where he joined up with the 21st Marines of the 3rd Marine Division. Newman trained with his new unit on Guadalcanal for three months in preparation for the invasion of Bougainville. He did not see much combat on Bougainville, but did survive one close call when his company was mistakenly strafed by an American plane. Next came the Battle of Guam, where Newman landed with the first wave as part of a JASCO (Joint Assault Signal Company) team that was supposed to provide liaison services for naval gunfire support. He did not get the opportunity to provide these services, however, as a mortar round landed near their position and wounded the officer in charge of their team. After surviving heavy combat on Guam, Newman next took part in the Battle of Iwo Jima in February 1945. The 3rd Marine Division landed on the fifth day of the battle, and Newman’s dominant memory of his time on Iwo Jima is being shot at every time he moved. He and his fellow Marines were sometimes pinned down for days at a time, and he relied on a small Bible that he carried in his chest pocket to provide him with the mental strength to continue.
While Newman’s unit never employed him in the role he trained for as a Code Talker—he never sent one encoded message—he displayed a remarkable flexibility and willingness to help out where he was needed. He worked as a communications specialist, but also helped move the bodies of the dead and wounded on Bougainville, and even manned a rocket launcher on Iwo Jima.
After the war, Alfred Newman worked as a munitions inspector at Fort Wingate before taking a job at Utah International Navajo Mine, where he worked his way up to a supervisory position before retiring after 25 years of service. Newman was humble about his own status as a Code Talker, but hoped that future generations would learn about their contributions, and remember that Navajos volunteered to serve despite a history of mistreatment at the hands of the U.S. government.
Alfred K. Newman, Sr. passed away on January 13, 2019.” (Library of Congress)
“As was true of many Navajos, Lemuel attended a boarding school as a child. After high school, he married, Dorothy Hardia, a young Catholic lady from the Laguna Tribe in New Mexico. After the birth of one son, Lemuel enlisted for service during World War II but was rejected by the Navy for health reasons. The Marines welcomed him, however, when they learned that he spoke Navajo. He and 419 other well-guarded Navajo radio operators had the task of sending, and receiving military communications via a special code, later credited with helping to win the war. Based on the difficult, then virtually unwritten Navajo, Language, the code was considered unbreakable. Using in complete sentences, clan names to describe military units, names of birds for airplanes, and names of fish for ships and submarines, the coded communications brought to the ears of enemy code-breakers strangely unfamiliar sounds.
After the war, Lemuel work for about 20 years on the Santa Fe Railroad in Barstow, California. When he heard about Christ in his own language from a Navajo Christian, he placed his faith in Christ’s atoning death on his behalf. Sometime later, Dorothy trusted Christ as well, and the Holy Spirit began His transforming work in her life as he had in Lemuel‘s. Several Navajo men, mentored Lemuel, and he and his family became active in Barstow‘s Trinity Baptist Church. Ultimately, he became burdened for his people in the White Cone/Indian Wells area of the Navajo Reservation in Arizona, and longed for more Bible training. The Barstow church graciously moved him and his family to Cottonwood, Arizona, where he attended Indian Bible Academy. By then, several of their nine children had been born.
Upon completion of Bible school, Lemuel and Dorothy wanted to take the Gospel to his home area, but they were unable to get a house there. Living in Flagstaff temporarily, they commuted to Indian wells, eventually moving closer and settling in Chinle. Later, the Barstow church enable them to purchase a mobile home so they could live in Indian Wells, where Lemuel faithfully shepherded the people, and Dorothy cared for the children and served as an effective helpmate.”
(Excerpts from Navajo Code Talker Turned Preacher by Juanita Fike courtesy UIM Magazine Volume 9 Number 1)
THE GOOD SOLDIER OF JESUS CHRIST
Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier. –II Timothy 2:1-4
He has answered the call of duty.
So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at My mouth, and warn them from Me. –Ezekiel 33:7
Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me. –Isaiah 6:8
He understands the honor of serving.
…but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many. –Matthew 20:26-28
No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please Him Who hath chosen him to be a soldier. –2 Timothy 2:4
He is loyal, without apology, to his Commander in Chief.
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. –Romans 12:1-2
That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. –Philippians 2:10-11
Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. –1 Corinthians 10:31
Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the LORD. And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. –Joshua 24:14-15
Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. –James 4:4
He recognizes the importance of preparation.
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. –2 Timothy 2:15
…be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: –1 Peter 3:15
He values his basic training.
Blessed be the LORD my strength, which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight: My goodness, and my fortress; my high tower, and my deliverer; my shield, and He in Whom I trust… –Psalms 144:1-2
To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding; To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity; To give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion. –Proverbs 1:2-4
He is disciplined in his lifestyle.
Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway. –1 Corinthians 9:24-27
He faithfully obeys each command.
If ye love Me, keep My commandments. –John 14:15
But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. –James 1:22
He possesses confidence.
Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: –Philippians 1:6
I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. –Philippians 4:13
He is ready to go to any duty station.
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. –Matthew 28:19-20
…I have fully preached the gospel of Christ. Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man’s foundation: –Romans 15:19-20
He gladly receives his assignment to share God’s vital message.
How then shall they call on Him in Whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. –Romans 10:14-17
Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. For He hath made Him to be sin for us, Who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. –2 Corinthians 5:20-21
He understands the importance of his mission.
To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me. –Acts 26:18
The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. –2 Peter 3:9
He knows God’s message is critical to save lives.
So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. –Isaiah 55:11
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved. –John 3:16-17
He accurately relays God’s message regardless of opposition.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. –Romans 1:16
For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. –1 Corinthians 1:18
Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. –1 Corinthians 2:13-14
Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. –2 Timothy 4:2
He remains focused on the mission.
…but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. –Philippians 3:13-14
He remains alert at all times.
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. –1 Peter 5:8-9
He endures hardness.
Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. –2 Timothy 2:3
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord. –1 Corinthians 15:58
He experiences suffering.
Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. –1 Peter 4:16
Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.–1 Peter 4:19
He recognizes the spiritual battle.
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) –2 Corinthians 10:3-4
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. –Ephesians 6:12
He discerns the objectives and tactics of the enemy.
The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy… –John 10:10
Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices. –2 Corinthians 2:11
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. –James 4:7
He equips himself for battle.
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. –Ephesians 6:10-11
Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; –Ephesians 6:13-18
He positions himself for the strongest defense.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. –Psalms 46:1
He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust. –Psalms 91:1-2
He is confident of victory and the defeat of the enemy.
…in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. –Romans 8:37
Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. –1 John 4:4
These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful. –Revelation 17:14
“And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. –Revelation 12:9-10
He values his fellow soldiers.
Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend. –Proverbs 27:17
Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. –Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. –Philippians 2:4
He leads by example.
Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. –1 Timothy 4:12
He is ready to rescue spiritual prisoners of war.
And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will. –2 Timothy 2:24-26
He is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for Christ.
Then said Jesus unto His disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for My sake shall find it. –Matthew 16:24-25
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. –John 15:13
Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. –Matthew 20:28
But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. –Romans 5:8
He will be honored for faithfully proclaiming God’s life-changing message.
For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward His name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. –Hebrews 6:10
Likewise also the good works of some are manifest beforehand; and they that are otherwise cannot be hid. –1 Timothy 5:25
And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. –Galatians 6:9
(Copyright Today’s Native 2023)