Obit Code Talker Sandoval

In this 2013 photo, Navajo Code Talker Samuel Sandoval talks about his experiences in the military in Cortez, Colo. Sandoval, one of the last remaining Navajo Code Talkers who transmitted messages in World War II using a code based on their native language, has died at age 98. Sandoval died on Friday, July 29, 2022, at a hospital in Shiprock, N.M., his wife, Malula, told The Associated Press.

Navajo Code Talker Samuel Sandoval dies; 3 left from group

FLAGSTAFF — Samuel Sandoval, one of the last remaining Navajo Code Talkers who transmitted messages in World War II using a code based on their native language, has died.

Sandoval died July 29 at a hospital in Shiprock, New Mexico, his wife, Malula told The Associated Press. He was 98.

Hundreds of Navajos were recruited from the vast Navajo Nation to serve as Code Talkers with the U.S. Marine Corps. Only three are still alive today: Peter MacDonald, John Kinsel Sr. and Thomas H. Begay.

The Code Talkers took part in every assault the Marines conducted in the Pacific, sending thousands of messages without error on Japanese troop movements, battlefield tactics and other communications critical to the war's ultimate outcome. The code, based on the then-unwritten Navajo language, confounded Japanese military cryptologists and is credited with helping the U.S. win the war.

Samuel Sandoval was on Okinawa when got word from another Navajo Code Talker that the Japanese had surrendered and relayed the message to higher-ups.

Sandoval was born in Nageezi near Chaco Culture National Historical Park in northwestern New Mexico. He enlisted in the Marine Corps after attending a Methodist school where he was discouraged from speaking Navajo. He helped recruit other Navajos from the school to serve as Code Talkers, expanding on words and an alphabet that an original group of 29 Navajos created.

Sandoval served in five combat tours and was honorably discharged in 1946. The Code Talkers had orders not to discuss their roles — not during the war and not until their mission was declassified in 1968.

Sandoval and his wife met while he was running a substance abuse counseling clinic, and she was a secretary, she said. They were married 33 years. Sandoval raised 11 children from previous marriages and in blended families, John said.

Navajo President Jonathan Nez said Sandoval will be remembered as a loving and courageous person who defended his homeland using his sacred language.

"We are saddened by his passing, but his legacy will always live on in our hearts and minds," Nez said in a statement.


126th Frontier Days visits top 250,000

CHEYENNE — The 126th anniversary Cheyenne Frontier Days came to a close the evening of July 31, bringing more than 250,000 visitors to Frontier Park over 10 days.

According to a news release from the event organizers, total attendance was 264,869 this year. That number comes from 32,653 gate admission tickets sold, 108,662 people visiting the rodeo, 103,798 attendees at a Frontier Nights concert and 19,756 attendees during the Professional Bull Riders shows.

Rodeo performances were sold out on both Saturdays, according to the release.

While the total attendance number does not represent 264,869 individuals visiting the "Daddy of 'em All" — because some people may have gone to multiple shows or visited the park multiple times — the number was approximately quadruple the population of Cheyenne.

CFD Chief Executive Officer Tom Hirsig told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle that he thinks Frontier Days had "an incredible year,” though he admitted it was a tough comparison to last year’s 125th anniversary, its biggest year ever.

In addition to 2021 being the sesquicentennial, last year's event followed the first-ever cancellation of CFD in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Attendance highlights from this year include 18,788 people fed during the three free pancake breakfasts and 36,262 visitors to the Indian Village section of Frontier Park.

The release noted that "An estimated 6,500 animals were part of the rodeo, parades and bull riding. ... Only one animal required treatment, and, unfortunately, that animal did not recover."

The CFD news release also hailed "unprecedented involvement by various military groups" during Frontier Days, which Hirsig said was his favorite part of the event this year. The news release estimated 8,800 people watched the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds performance during the Wings Over Warren Air Show.


State's film industry brings in $855M in fiscal 2022

ALBUQUERQUE — Fiscal 2022 has been a record-setting year for movies and TV shows shot around New Mexico.

Officials with the New Mexico Film Office said the film industry brought in $855 million this year — about $200 million more than last year — and involved a record 109 different productions.

Among the popular movies and TV shows shot in New Mexico are AMC's "Better Call Saul," Netflix's "Stranger Things" and Focus Film "Vengeance."

"Fiscal year 2022 was a pretty great year. I feel like that is an understatement," Amber Dodson, director of the New Mexico Film Office, told Albuquerque TV station KOB.

Netflix is planning a 300-acre studio expansion in New Mexico and NBC Universal has also opened a production facility in Albuquerque.

"We only see strong, steady growth ahead for New Mexico," Dodson said.

Virgin Galactic planning an astronaut campus

SIERRA COUNTY — Aerospace and space travel company Virgin Galactic announced on Aug. 2 that it's planning to build an astronaut campus and training facility in southern New Mexico.

Company officials said in a statement that it has secured land for the facility outside Truth or Consequences near the location of Spaceport America.

They said the planned facility will include training facilities, accommodations, tailored experiences, an observatory, wellness center and dining option and it will only be available to future astronauts of Virgin Galactic and some of their guests.

There's no immediate word on when construction of the project will begin.

"I'm thrilled to welcome the next chapter of Virgin Galactic's continued investment in New Mexico," Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a statement. "The new astronaut campus in Sierra County will spur further economic activity for New Mexico, creating more local jobs and attracting new visitors and spending to the area."

Last month, Virgin Galactic announced it had selected the Phoenix suburb of Mesa as the site where it will assemble its next class of rocket ships with the facility capable of producing up to six spaceships per year.

Officials said the Delta class suborbital spaceplanes will be designed to fly weekly, supporting the company's target of 400 flights annually from Spaceport America.

They said the first of the spaceships is expected to start payload flights in late 2025 with private astronaut flights in 2026.


Man accused of causing wildfire by burning a spider

SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah man has been arrested on accusations he started a wildfire while trying to burn a spider with his lighter.

Cory Allan Martin, 26, told deputies that he spotted the spider on Aug. 1 while he was in a hiking area in the foothills south of Salt Lake City near the city of Springville, shows a probable cause statement. He acknowledged starting the fire, but didn't explain why he was trying to burn the spider.

Deputies found a jar of marijuana in his belongings, but he didn't appear to be high, said Utah County Sheriff's Sgt. Spencer Cannon.

There is no evidence to suggest he intentionally started the blaze, said Cannon, but he called it a reckless and puzzling decision. This area and most of Utah are bone dry amid extreme drought conditions.

Martin was arrested on suspicion of reckless burn and possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia, court documents show.

The wildfire quickly spread up the mountain and had burned less than 1 square mile as of Aug. 2, according to fire officials. No homes had been damaged.

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