IVINS — An upcoming event in Ivins will honor the late Samuel Tom Holiday, a World War II veteran who served as a Navajo Code Talker in the Pacific theater.
The free event will be held Saturday at the Southern Utah Veterans Home from 3-5:30 p.m. in commemoration of the year anniversary of Holiday’s death. Navajo Tacos will be served, while supplies last, and the venue will display memorabilia from Holiday’s storied life.
Starting life from humble beginnings in a sheep camp on the Navajo Nation in Monument Valley, Arizona, Holiday joined the war effort at age 18 and served in Saipan, Iwo Jima, Tinian and the Marshall Islands.
Holiday was one of about 400 Navajos to serve with the U.S. Marines as Code Talkers. As fluent speakers of Navajo and English, they were instrumental in communicating messages between troops in a language indecipherable by Japanese combatants.
Navajo is grammatically complex, and at the time of the war, it was not yet a written language and was considered by military officials to be indecipherable.
Holiday and his fellow code talkers fought on the front lines where they sent coded messages back and forth about enemy fire, troop movement and the need for medical help.
Military historians note that during the first 48 hours of the invasions at Iwo Jima, more than 800 coded messages were sent and received by Navajo radio units with 100 percent accuracy.
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 present at Saturday’s event at Southern Utah Veterans Home.
Tya Redhouse, Holiday’s granddaughter, said she organized the event as a way to bring the community closer to veterans while also serving as an opportunity to bring awareness to her grandfather’s life. She said some of the items that will be on display at the event have never been shown to the public before.
“He lived such a wonderful life,” she said, noting that he was loved wherever he went, whether it was at the sheep camp he grew up on in Monument Valley, in Kayenta, Arizona, where he worked after the war or in Ivins where he lived out the rest of his days.
Redhouse also plans to publicize a goal she and her family have for furthering Holiday’s legacy. She hopes to have a statue of Holiday built and erected in Ivins within a year.
“I just think the love, compassion and respect of who he was drives me to this moment where I want to dedicate the extra time in my life to hold these events until he has a statue in Ivins and also in Kayenta, Arizona — that’s the two main places he considered home,” Redhouse said.
A GoFundMe fundraiser has been launched toward this goal.
- What: Event honoring life of Samuel Tom Holiday.
- When: Saturday, June 15, 3-5:30 p.m.
- Where: Southern Utah Veterans Home, 160 N. 200 East, Ivins.
- Cost: Free and open to the public.
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