Last weekend I visited the Farmerville Cemetery, armed with a handful of flags.  Each year for the 4th of July I walk among the various graves and place American Flags on the final resting place of American veterans until I run out of the small garlands.  This year I noticed that several of the graves were already decorated and it was gratifying to see families commemorating members of their families in such a way.  There are veterans from both World Wars and the Korean Conflict and you can’t but wonder what these patriots endured to ensure the freedom for our great nation.  This time my small granddaughter accompanied me as we walked among the graves.  When we finished I stood back and saw the lovely red, white and blue colors floating in the wind and this reminded me of when I was a small child and each year flags were placed on the graves of those that served.  The reverent quiet beauty does not diminish with time.  As I observed the flags it reminded me of another cemetery a thousand miles west that I will disclose at the end of this writing.

In 1846 the United States and a group from the Navajo Indian tribe entered into a loose treaty of peace.  Indian Raids continued after the treaty as was Americans entering Indian land.  Then in 1849 a better treaty was signed and America began to build forts along the tribal boundaries.  The peace lasted for a short time and by 1860 American raids on the Navaho nation increased.

In 1861 an Army unit headed by Kit Carson entered Navajo territory to force their surrender.  The unit went up beautiful Canyon de Chelly and across the Navajo lands destroying crops, livestock and humans.  Eventually the starving and dying Navajo surrendered and were sent to Fort Defiance.

In 1864 9,000 Navajo were relocated to Ft Sumner New Mexico.  The mode of transport was a walk of 300 miles across the desert.  The walk was ill prepared to take care of the Indians or their livestock.  When arriving at the final destination starvation was prevalent and many froze to death that winter.  Kit Carson continued his work as a loyal Army officer even though he was sickened of the tasks placed on him.  I read a highway monument at Gallup, New Mexico telling of Fort Wingate and how Carson had been ordered to move there with his unit to help control the Navaho.  Near Keams Canyon, Arizona I climbed a small Mesa to find a rock carving, protected by a sheet of metal roofing, where Carson had carved his name and the name of his army unit on the wall of the canyon while bringing in the Navaho.

The Navajo disdain for the American government and the settlers is no more prevalent than at the Navaho Museum in Window Rock, Arizona.  When I first entered this museum it was apparent that this lovely building and exhibits pulled no punches or sugar coated what had happened in the past.  Two treaties between the United States and the Navajo tribe were on display with the note that both of these had been broken.  Pictures of the 300 – mile march and the conditions of the early reservations were present.  The Navajo nation was suppressed, oppressed and forgotten in the deserts of the Southwest.

America entered World War II and it was apparent that it was not going to be an easy conflict.  The Japanese Imperial Army was a formable enemy and any advantage America could achieve was investigated.  The Japanese forces had many American educated members of its military and were very good at breaking American language codes that told of troop movements during the early years of the war.  In 1942 Phillip Johnson proposed the use of Navajo Indians to use their language to transmit information in the South Pacific.  Since the language was so complex and only spoken on Navajo land, it was perfect to transmit military information.  But would such an oppressed people volunteer for such a dangerous mission.  The answer was yes and between 400-500 Navajo Indians answered the call to serve America and joined the Marines.  One was captured and tortured, many times being forced to stand at attention in the snow barefooted for hours.  He never gave up the details of the code.

This was not the only tribes to be recruited and American Indians from many tribes served proudly in the American forces.  It was said of the Navajo Code breakers by   Major Howard M. Connor “Were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima!”

While in Gallup, New Mexico on business I toured the Navaho land. On a bright windy Saturday Morning I was winding my way through the low mountains and hills. I topped a knoll and wound around a curve and was met with hundreds of American flags flying from what appeared to be a grave yard. I quickly U-turned, parked and got out. A large arch over the entrance to the wrought iron fenced cemetery proclaimed, Navajo Veteran Cemetery. Walking through the cemetery were the graves of Navajo who had served in all the Wars from World War II through Desert Storm. The graves were decorated with various souvenirs of their life and flying over many of these graves in the hot desert breeze was Ole Glory, the flag of the United States of America. I asked myself and continue to be amazed that a group of Americans so oppressed by their country were so very proud to have served for that country that they continually flew the flag of the United States.


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