Tse Bonito celebrates Navajo Code Talkers at museum site ground-breaking

About 900 people gather in Tse Bonito, New Mexico to celebrate Navajo Code Talkers Day Aug. 14. (Submitted photo)

About 900 people gather in Tse Bonito, New Mexico to celebrate Navajo Code Talkers Day Aug. 14. (Submitted photo)

TSE BONITO, New Mexico — It was a special day at the Navajo Nation capital Aug. 14, where approximately 900 people gathered for the ground-breaking ceremony for the future Navajo Code Talkers Museum.

The one-day event included: a two-mile honor run, parade, gourd dance, ground breaking ceremony on the hilltop, with local and state dignitaries expressing their appreciation to the 400 Navajo Code Talkers. Keynote speaker, U.S. Marine Corps Lt. General David Bellon honored the national heroes.

A special addition during the event was the local Diné Bi’Ólta’ students singing the Flag Song in Navajo.

National Navajo Code Talkers Day, Aug. 14, is a holiday across the United States with many communities pausing to remember the young Navajo marines who used their language to gain victory in the Pacific Theater during WWII.

The Navajo language is still spoken fluently today by some of its 300,000 members over a geographic space 27,400 square miles.

Aug. 14 was a clear day with a beautiful sunrise as the parade goers set up along the road. Families traveled from great distances and visitors came from different states across America, including a variety of U.S. Marine Corps personnel from Arizona and California.

At sunrise, 200 runners completed the honor run, covering two miles coordinated by Tom Riggenbach and his team from Navajo YES. The parade started with the Upper Fruitland Color & Honor Guard, the Navajo Nation band, the young Marines, San Juan County Marine Corps League, Navajo Code Talkers decedents, a variety of Navajo teen royalty and Navajo Hopi Honor Riders on motorcycles, joined by Iron Warriors MC and CVMA 32-1 riders from Phoenix.

The Navajo Code Talkers Museum board members began planning for the event in June. With 12 weeks of planning, the day was a success to commemorate the day with golden shovels turning soil at this special location.

Board members were led by Navajo Code Talkers Peter MacDonald as president and the late Samuel Sandoval as vice-president. A collaboration of volunteers eagerly joined the coordination of National Navajo Code Talkers Day at Tse Bonito. In Navajo, Tsé Binííʼtóhí, means water under the rock. The elevation is 6,824 feet and is surrounded with rich natural resources.

In the afternoon, Navajo families gathered at the Window Rock Airport to see U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey from California Naval Air Station.

MacDonald presented Lt. Gen. David Bellon with a horned toad pin, “cheii,” which means maternal grandfather, for protection and a successful journey.

“You will never be hurt. You will be successful. Thank you. It’s all yours from the Navajo Code Talkers and the Navajo people. It’s yours,” MacDonald said as he gave the pin to the general.

“On this day, every year our entire nation has remembered the debt owed to the Navajo people for their Code Talker’s valor and devotion,” said General Jim Mattis, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.) and former Secretary of Defense in a video message. “So, we pay national respect owed to those lads who faithful stood every task in combat while keeping their honor pure and clean. Thank you to every one of the Code Talkers here and departed, and to the families who hold their memories in your hearts, and a salute to you all, the Navajo people, those who raised such warrior patriots.”

The Navajo Code Talker Museum board thanked all who participated in person or through live streaming and those organizations that donated and volunteers who honored and remembered the Code Talkers.

“While we remember the heroic efforts of our United States Marine ancestors for whom the day is set aside, we remember also the course we are established on — that of building a monument to them, preserving the language and culture, which is to be seen by the world,” said Regan Hawthorne, NCTM board member.

More information about Navajo Code Talkers Museum, which is a nonprofit museum, is available by emailing navajocodetalkersmuseum@gmail.com or visiting www.nationalnavajocodetalkersday.com.

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