Two years ago Rehoboth (N.M.) Christian School set out to celebrate its centennial, little knowing that the anniversary would flower into a permanent tribute to Navajo war heroes.
A research team discovered that the school has strong ties to the World War II Code Talkers. Their complex code, based on the Navajo language, became an indispensable tool for war communication. Twelve of the code talkers attended or had connections with Rehoboth, and many of their grandchildren are part of the school today.
Photos and artifacts from this period of Rehoboth’s history drew crowds during the anniversary celebration. After the celebration, “we knew we had to do something to keep the stories alive,” said executive director Ron Polinder. “We had no idea how much it meant to the Navajo people to see the photos and to recognize their outstanding contributions to U.S. history.” In 2004 Rehoboth opened a Code Talkers Communication Center. Michelle Pracy, a museum curator, set up what Polinder calls a “spectacular display” of code talker photos, history, and equipment. Twelve code talkers and their families attended the dedication and were deeply moved by the recognition.
Melvina Muskett, Rehoboth’s development assistant, said her grandfather, Harry Belone, was a code talker in 1943. She said, “It’s good for Navajo students to feel proud of their heritage and to see how we have impacted the nation and world.”
Rehoboth Christian School, a ministry of the Christian Reformed Church since 1903, enrolled 425 students from Kindergarten through grade 12 last year, 68 percent of whom are Native American.