George Smith, 90, of Sundance, New Mexico, died 30 October 2012 at Gallup Indian Medical Center. He was born 15 June 1922 in Mariano Lake, New Mexico and was Salt People Clan, born for Black Streak Wood People Clan.
Grandson Merrill Teengar presented the eulogy by sharing moments from Smith’s life as a family man and Marine during the service at Rollie Mortuary.
“He loved his family and especially fond of the little ones,” Teengar said. “During his last visit to the hospital, he said ‘Don’t worry, everything will be OK. I lived my life. It’s time for me to go.'”
Like many Navajo boys, Smith spent his youth herding sheep with his brothers and spent time renaming the familiar landscape that comprise the back hills of Rehoboth and Breadsprings, N.M.
“He mentioned these days like they happened days before,” Teengar said.
Smith attended school in Crownpoint, which generated stories about school dances that he shared with his grandchildren.
“His grandchildren would tease him about the school dances he talked about,” Teengar said then added that his grandfather smiled ear to ear when watching the grandchildren imitate the dances.
His education continued at Wingate, where dancing was not allowed, Teengar said.
Smith enlisted in the U.S. Marines in 1943 and was trained as a rifle marksman then as a Code Talker and served in the battles of Ryukyu Islands, Saipan and Tinian and served in Hawaii, Japan and Okinawa.
He was one of three brothers who joined the military – his oldest brother Ray Smith joined the Army and his younger brother Albert Smith joined the Marines and also became a Code Talker.
Smith was 17 and Albert was 15 when they enlisted but changed their ages by two years.
He was honorably discharged 07 January 1946 with the rank of corporal.
After the war, he worked as a destroyer of old ammunition at the Fort Wingate Army Depot then as a mechanic at Fort Wingate Trading Post. “He loved fixing vehicles and did it well,” Teengar said then added that Smith taught his children and grandchildren the “ins and outs” of vehicle maintenance. “It came to the point where he could diagnose a vehicle problem while talking to someone on the phone,” Teengar said.
Smith eventually worked as an auto and heavy equipment diesel mechanic at Navajo Engineering and Construction Authority (NECA) in Fort Defiance then in Shiprock. He retired in 1995. Under NECA, he was sent to school in Peoria, Ill. and earned diesel mechanic credentials. Because Smith talked about his job with his family, his grandchildren gave him the nickname “NECA dude.”
He was a member of the Navajo Code Talkers Association and the Church Rock Veterans Organization. His favorite parade was the Gallup Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial where he enjoyed seeing familiar faces in the crowd.
Through his work with the Navajo Code Talkers Association, he traveled to many places including a revisit to Pearl Harbor and Saipan.
The funeral service, spoken in both English and Navajo, was a fitting homage to Navajo Code Talker George Smith, who delivered the code, based on the Navajo language that helped the United States defeat Japanese forces during World War II.
Corporal Smith was buried with full military honors at the Rehobeth Cemetery.