By Eric Norwood Jr.
CNJ staff writer
U.S. history students at Clovis High School got a different kind of history lesson on Thursday, as history actually came to the classroom in person.
The students were visited by former Navajo Code Talker Jose Chavez, 90, and two other former soldiers and Native Americans who shared their life stories and a couple life lessons with the students.
Chavez, Joe Bird, 75, and Remijo Lovato, 67, are members of the Santo Domingo Pueblo, a reservation 33 miles north of Albuquerque.
Lovato described the history of the Navajo code talkers, and discussed the impact they had on World War II.
Navajo code talkers took part in every assault the U.S. Marines conducted in the Pacific from 1942 to 1945. They served in all six Marine divisions, Marine Raider battalions and Marine parachute units, transmitting messages by telephone and radio in their native language a code that the Japanese never broke.
“Gen. Eisenhower made a smart move, using the Navajo,” Lovato. “They couldn’t understand our native tongue.”
Lovato also spoke on his first day experience in Vietnam.
“The first day we landed in Cam Ranh Bay, we were bombed. It wasn’t over until daylight and we got no rest,” said Lovato.
Chavez spoke briefly on his experiences in Normandy, a short stay in the Paris General Hospital, and how he met perhaps the greatest baseball player ever, Babe Ruth at a Christmas party in Staten Island, N.Y., in December 1944.
“My buddies were pushing me in a wheelchair, and this man came up and introduced himself and gave me his watch as a gift. It was Baby Ruth!,” said Chavez with a grin.
Joe Bird spoke about his experiences as a student-athlete-soldier while running track for the Army.
“I attended classes at Georgetown University, I worked, and I ran track. I was only 128 pounds, so I guess I just go with the wind.”
Bird didn’t see action in a war, as he was on duty during peacetime, between the Korean and Vietnam wars.
“I was attending University of New Mexico when I was drafted. In those days, you had no choice. I had to go,” said Bird.
Christian Masaniai, 15, enjoyed the presentation.
“I feel honored to be here, and that they would come all the way to Clovis to speak to us. The most interesting fact is that there are only three Navajo Code Talkers left,” said the CHS sophomore.
Lovato departed with a message for Masaniai and the rest of the students.
“Please, continue your education or join the armed forces, where they will help you pay for your education. Education is very important,” said Lozano.