December 12 will find Sister Martha Torbik in the Santa Fe National Cemetery in New Mexico. There she will lay Christmas wreaths on the graves of 14 Navajo Code Talkers and speak their names in honor of their service to the U.S. during World War II.
“These Code Talkers used the Navajo language, unwritten at the time, to create a code that the Japanese were unable to break,” Sister Martha says. “One of the things I found fascinating was the Japanese couldn’t break the code, but they were pretty clever at finding where the encoded messages were coming from. The Code Talkers had to pick up and leave within minutes of transmitting.”
The wreaths Sister Martha will place come from Wreaths Across America, a non-profit organization that honors America’s deceased war veterans, dating back to the Revolutionary War. Each December, Wreaths Across America coordinates wreath-laying events across the country. Sister Martha began laying wreaths in 2017, after learning about the program on PBS. She sponsored wreaths for her parents at Arlington National Cemetery; last year she volunteered to help at Onondaga National Memorial Cemetery in Syracuse, New York.
This year Sister Martha was selected in a random drawing to receive 100 sponsored wreaths to place on graves in a location of her choosing. “Through my research, I discovered there are many Navajo Code Talkers buried in Santa Fe, so that’s where my wreaths are going.” Sister Martha became interested in the Code Talkers when she was teaching on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota. Ministering with the Lakota Nation was her most meaningful ministry, she says.
“It’s amazing how my trip to New Mexico has all fallen together. There were with many coincidences,” Sister Martha says. “I was sick the week I was to go away camping this summer, so I still had time and money to make the trip. I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything.”