About 175 friends, family and tribal officials packed the First Assembly of God Church Monday to say farewell to the latest Navajo Code Talker who passed away.
Arcenio Smiley, 90, died in Phoenix on June 1. Burial was at the cemetery in Toadlena.
Family members said that Smiley joined the U.S. Marines in 1944 before graduating from high school and after being trained as a Code Talker. He was sent to the Pacific Theater where he participated in several battles, including Saipan.
He was born and raised in Toadlena to the late Mary Natoni Smiley and Sam Smiley.
He was Tsé Nahabilnii (Sleep Rock People), born for Honágháahnii (One Walks Around). His maternal grandfather is Naakaii Diné’e (Mexican) and paternal grandfather is Hashti’ishiii (Mud).
He spent much of his time in the Marines helping load supplies onto ships and earned the marksman level qualifications with the rifle. He also had a number of opportunities during his career as a Marine to use his native language as a code to fool the Japanese.
He was honorably discharged in 1946 with the rank of corporal and would later receive a Congressional Silver Medal.
“Our grandfather was a great man who was very proud of his heritage and service to his country,” his grandchildren stated in a press release. “He will be missed by all, as a great warrior who is on his journey back home.”