Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye, Code Talker Thomas H. Begay and others wait for the funeral procession to arrive.
Published June 18, 2018
MONUMENT VALLEY, Utah — Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye and Vice President Jonathan Nez on Friday helped the family of Code Talker Samuel T. Holiday say goodbye to a father, grandfather, uncle, warrior and friend.
During a funeral service set against the same iconic backdrop in Monument Valley where Holiday was born, President Begaye called Holiday a friend and a hero, admired by the Navajo people and recognized by the United States government for his role in helping turn the tide of World War II in the Pacific Theater. Holiday died June 11 at Southern Utah Veterans Home, in Ivins, Utah. He was 94.
Code Talker Samuel T. Holiday was laid to rest Friday after funeral services in Monument Valley, Utah.
“Out on the battlefield, you’re not a warrior by yourself,” President Begaye told an audience of several hundred people assembled at the Monument Valley Visitor Center on Friday morning. “You’re not a warrior alone. You are there with your comrades, watching each other, having each other’s backs, protecting one another, making sure that everyone is all right. Sam Holiday was out there with his comrades, battling the enemy so that we could have the freedom we enjoy. Today we honor him.”
Born in Monument Valley in 1924, Holiday attended boarding school in Tuba City before enlisting in the United States Marines Corps and training as a Code Talker. He served in the 4th Marine Division, 25th Regiment, H and S company. As a Code Talker, Holiday was armed with the greatest weapon on the face of the earth, President Begaye said.
“That weapon is mightier than missiles, tanks and artillery,” he said. “That weapon is Diné Bizaad, the language given to us by the creator.”
During his address, President Begaye ordered flags on the Navajo Nation to be flown at half-staff to honor Holiday. He also read a proclamation recognizing Holiday as a “beloved leader, hero and brave warrior.” Holiday received a Congressional Silver Medal and a Purple Heart for his military service.
“As the Bible says, the greatest thing a person can do is lay down his life for another,” President Begaye said. “That’s the legacy that is right here before us in Sam Holiday. He was willing to go out and lay down his life for his comrades, his country, his people and the great Navajo Nation.”
Code Talker Thomas H. Begay, right, and President Russell Begaye pay their last respects to Code Talker Samuel T. Holiday.
Vice President Jonathan Nez also honored Holiday during the funeral on Friday. In an address designed to comfort Holiday’s family, the vice president asked them to encourage each other.
“We are here to say goodbye to a warrior but also to celebrate a life,” Vice President Nez said. “We should be inspired by a humble man who exemplified self-reliance. A brave and courageous man who not only defended our country, but who also taught his children the meaning of ‘T’áá Hwó’ Ají T’éego,’ as he was a passionate advocate for our youth, health and wellness.”
Holiday often attended the Navajo Nation Park Race Series, offering encouragement before the race began and then congratulating runners as they crossed the finish line, Vice President Nez said. Holiday’s legacy as a Code Talker should serve as a reminder of his selfless service and of the significance of learning the Navajo language.
“We know the stories of the Navajo Code Talkers and their contributions to the Navajo Nation,” Vice President Nez said. “But we also need to be bold in teaching others about their contributions to the citizens of the United States of America. We need to be bold in teaching the language to our youth, and we need to be proud to be part of the great Navajo Nation.”
After completing his service in the Marines, Holiday made his home in Kayenta, Ariz., where he worked as a police officer, park ranger and uranium miner. He married Lupita Mae Isaac in 1954 and the two had eight children, 33 grandchildren, 28 great grandchildren and two great-great grandchildren.
He was buried Friday at the Kayenta Community Veterans Cemetery.