Thursday, April 18, 2013

Another Warrior Passes On

Albert Smith, a true Warrior.

We have featured these modern Warriors, the Navajo Code Talkers, in the past. These men left the reservation as young men and used their Navajo language as a code that was never broken. They functioned in the heat of battle and were integral to the success of the U.S. forces in the Pacific theater during WWII. There are but a few remaining and another passed this week. We would like honor Albert Smith with trubute written by his niece, Farina Smith. She also beautifully defines what it means to be a Warrior. Below are the links to our past posts:
 Shibízhí Albert Smith, Navajo Code Talker begins a new journey
In Bighorse the Warrior, Tiana Bighorse defines what a “warrior” means to the Navajo:
"In Navajo, a warrior means someone who can get through the snowstorm when no one else can. In Navajo, a warrior is the one that doesn't get the flu when everyone else does- the only one walking around, making a fire for the sick, giving them medicine, feeding them food, making them strong to fight the flu. In Navajo, a warrior is the one who can use words so everyone knows they are part of the same family. In Navajo, a warrior says what is in the people's hearts. Talks about what the land means to them. Brings them together to fight for it" (xxiv).
Many people recognized my uncle Albert Smith as a warrior, because he served in World War II as a Navajo Code Talker. Many people also knew Albert as a warrior in the Navajo sense of the title. I, Farina King, did.
I can present the basic biographical information about my uncle. Albert Smith was born in December 1924 near Mariano Lake, New Mexico. He attended boarding school as a child in New Mexico. At the age of 16, he volunteered to serve in the U.S. Marines during WWII with his brother, George, providing false information about his age at the time to meet the requirements to join the military. He was selected to train as a Navajo Code Talker. He served in the 4th, 14th, and 23rd Marine Divisions. He faced combat and worked in military code operations on the Marshall Islands, Saipan, Tinian, and Iwo Jima. Smith returned to Navajo lands after his service in WWII, and then married in September 1953. He traveled abroad again for the U.S. military to Korea and left right before conflict broke out in the Korean War.
Smith continued and finished his education to become a teacher for American Indian students and worked In Oregon for some time before returning to New Mexico to settle in Gallup with his wife and their daughter, Alberta. He has been President of the Navajo Code Talkers Association and has served in other capacities in the association. He has traveled extensively to speak publicly about his experiences as a Navajo Code Talker after the code was declassified in 1968. He has participated in the making of documentaries and the writing of monographs concerning the history of the Navajo Code Talkers. He was also selected as the technical advisor for the film, Windtalkers, directed by John Woo in 2002.
At the age of 89 in the months before his passing, Smith continued to share his knowledge and experience with communities throughout the country.
What makes Albert a warrior to me in the Navajo sense is that he always fought in life for the people he loved and the land. He touched many lives after his service in WWII as a teacher and parent. Helen and Albert opened their home to many children without a place to go. They opened their home to me and re-connected me with my Navajo heritage and family. Shibízhí inspired me to pursue my dreams and passions, and to become a historian who could tell such incredible and touching stories as his own. He was the most spiritual person that I knew, reminding me that a Creator exists and cares for us his children. He taught me to respect all and our Mother Earth, and he showed me how the “mountain is our church.” The land orients us in our purposes and growth in life. I love you, Shibízhí, and I always will. I close with his own poem that he wrote in honor of his fellow veterans in World War II who passed on before him.
Rest in Peace
We are proud Americans,
Proud Navajo Marines
And, the Proud,
Humble Navajo Code Talkers.
Today as warriors
We stand before you with humility,
With honor and with pride.
These attributes, you left us to enjoy,
To care for, and to treasure.
With your passage through the shadow of death,
Came our precious Freedom, Liberty and Justice.
We survivors of these conflicts honor you,
With a special tribute;
Lend us your spiritual ears,
Drums of the ages have echoed
For you with songs and dances.
—poem by Albert Smith

His posterity will forever blessed by his example.

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