Gov. Herbert to declare Friday ‘Samuel Tom Holiday Day’; veteran’s funerary escort to start in St. George

Samuel Tom Holiday, a Navajo Code Talker who served in World War II, shows off his boxing stance at his 93rd birthday celebration, St. George, Utah, June 2, 2017 | File photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Samuel Tom Holiday, a Navajo Code Talker who died at age 94 in Ivins Monday, will be honored Friday as his body is returned home to Kayenta, Arizona.

A photo of Navajo Code Talker Samuel Tom Holiday sits atop a table, St. George, Utah, May 31, 2014 | File photo by Samantha Tommer, St. George News

Gov. Gary Herbert will declare Friday “Samuel Tom Holiday Day” as the World War II veteran receives an escort by Navajo/Hopi Honorary Riders followed by a procession of family members.

The escort is expected to begin at 6 a.m. Friday at the Hughes Mortuary, 1037 E. 700 South, St. George.

City Councilman Jimmie Hughes, who is currently serving as St. George Mayor Pro Tem while Mayor Jon Pike is on vacation, will participate in the procession.

“It’s an honor for us to be involved in this,” Hughes said Thursday. “We have enjoyed hearing the family’s stories.”

Read more: Navajo Code Talker Samuel Holiday dies in Ivins at age 94

Law enforcement personnel, including Utah Highway Patrol troopers, will help guide the escort as it makes its way through Southern Utah and northern Arizona, finally ending in Kayenta, not far from Holiday’s place of birth near Monument Valley.

“My grandfather, he was born in a hogan with dirt floors, herding sheep. He joined the military to support his country,” Holiday’s grandson, John Austin, told St. George News previously. “He got in the Marines, went to Camp Pendleton, learned code, went to Saipan, Iwo Jima, Tinian, Marshall Islands.”

Samuel Tom Holiday, a Navajo Code Talker who served in World War II, greets guests at his 93rd birthday celebration, St. George, Utah, June 2, 2017 | File photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Holiday was one of just a handful of surviving Navajo Code Talkers, who played an instrumental role in the Pacific theater of World War II. They used their language to create a code indecipherable by Japanese combatants, greatly assisting efforts to conduct warfare without tipping off the enemy.

“Radio transmissions at the time were being broken almost as fast as they could be created,” Austin said, “so with the Navajo Code Talkers communicating to one another, in the language and code, they were able to transmit unbreakable transmissions using their language.”

Holiday and his fellow Code Talkers weren’t allowed to talk about their experiences in the war until 1968 when their activities were declassified, and they were finally recognized for their vital role in defeating Japan.

Holiday and other Navajo veterans have since been recognized with multiple honors, including the establishment of National Navajo Code Talker Day by President Ronald Reagan in 1982 and the awarding of the Congressional Gold Medal in 2001.

After the war, Holiday returned to Arizona and became a Navajo police officer. He married Lupita Mae Isaac in 1954. They had eight children and dozens of grandchildren and great-grandchildren, many of whom will be following his procession Friday morning.

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