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  • Honoring George Smith

    by Senator Tom Udall

    Posted on 2013-01-04

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    UDALL of New Mexico. Mr. President, just a few weeks ago our Nation commemorated Veterans Day. It is above all a day of remembrance and gratitude. A time to remember the courage and sacrifice of the brave men and women who have served our Nation in the Armed Forces. It is a day when we pay tribute to the heroes among us. And to those who are no longer with us.

    Today I wish to honor one of those heroes. On Tuesday, October 30, our Nation lost a great American, Navajo Code Talker George Smith. Mr. Smith was born on June 15, 1922, in Mariano Lake, NM, and was Salt People Clan, born for Black Streak Wood People Clan. In 1943, he enlisted with the Marines. He was trained as a Navajo Code Talker and achieved the rank of corporal while serving in the Pacific. Corporal Smith fought in battles in Saipan, Tinian, Ryukyu Islands. He also served in Okinawa, Hawaii, and Japan. His brother, Albert Smith, also trained as a Code Talker, and served with him.

    The Marines who constituted the Navajo Code Talkers were small in number, but monumental in significance. Their skills were crucial to American victory in the Pacific during World War II. They turned their language into an unbreakable code. In battle after battle, in the thick of ferocious combat, they used that code as a powerful weapon in securing Allied victory. Our Nation will never forget what George Smith, and his brother, Albert Smith, and all of their fellow Code Talkers accomplished.

    Their service is all the more poignant in that they fought for freedom in a world that did not always accord freedom to them. When America entered World War II, the U.S. government had only recognized Native Americans as citizens for 17 years. In some places, tribal members still did not have the right to vote. 45,000 of the 350,000 Native Americans in the U.S. at that time served in the war. This tradition of military service by Native Americans continues to this day. Native Americans have the highest rate of service of any ethnic group.

    Mr. Smith was awarded the Congressional Silver Medal. After the war, Code Talker Smith returned home and dedicated himself to his family and community. He worked at Fort Wingate in disposing of old ammunition, and then as a mechanic at Fort Wingate Trading Post. Eventually, he went to Fort Defiance, where he served as a shop foreman. He later worked as a heavy equipment mechanic in Shiprock.

    Code Talker George Smith was blessed with a long life. When he passed away last month, he was 90 years old. He will be missed by his family, his friends, and his community, and he will always be remembered by a grateful nation. I extend my deepest sympathies to his family. We are forever in his debt. I hope that those who mourn him now will find comfort in all that he accomplished. His life made a difference. His invaluable service during World War II saved lives. Our Nation is free because of heroes like Code Talker George Smith. ____________________

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