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Vietnam War casualty to be honored along Highway 115 through Florence

Posted: 4:03 PM, Apr 23, 2019
Updated: 2019-04-25 10:15:55-04

FREMONT COUNTY – Colorado lawmakers are set to honor a Florence native for his sacrifice in service of the United States Army during the Vietnam War by renaming a section of Highway 115.

House Joint Resolution 1012  designates the stretch of road through Florence (between mile markers 7 and 10.34) as SFC Ray Adam Archuletta Memorial Highway.  The House approved the resolution this week. 

It’s an honor that Louis Archuletta, brother to Sergeant First Class Ray Adam Archuletta, believes to be well deserved and well placed.

(Above: Louis Archulleta talks to News5 about his brother's experiences)

Sergeant First Class Ray Adam Archuletta was born Christmas Eve 1936, enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1954 when he was 18-years-old, and began his first tour in Vietnam in 1966.

He served as a Mortar Platoon Sergeant with Company B, 2d Battalion, 502d Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division.

As the joint resolution reads, “For his years of military service and for making the ultimate sacrifice, SFC Archuletta was awarded the Bronze Star for Heroism, three Silver Stars, a Purple Heart, an Army Commendation Medal, a National Defense Service Medal, a Vietnam Service Medal, and a Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal..”

SFC Archuletta is honored on Panel 26E, Line 21 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.  He was laid to rest at Lakeside Cemetery in Cañon City. 

The resolution calls for the Colorado Department of Transportation to explore a cooperative agreement with Fremont County to maintain markers honoring Archuletta along the stretch of road. CDOT will also be allowed to accept and spend funds from gifts, donations, and grants to pay for the signs.

The document posthumously awarding SFC Archuletta a third Silver Star (2nd Oak Leaf Cluster) details his last firefight on September 7, 1967:

“For gallantry in action against a hostile force on 7 September 1967 near Duc Pho, Republic of Vietnam. Staff Sergeant Archuletta distinguished himself as his platoon was moving a wounded man to a landing zone to be extracted when they were suddenly brought under a tremendous volume of enemy automatic weapons fire. Seeing his machinegunner wounded. Sergeant Archuletta ordered his evacuation while he rushed forward with complete disregard for his own safety and in spite of the enemy fire to provide covering fire. As the wounded man was too heavy to be carried by the medic, Sergeant Archuletta again moved through the fire and helped carry him to the safety of a nearby wood line position… Nearing the wood line, Sergeant Archuletta was seriously wounded and in one last valiant effort he ordered the medic to take the wounded man to safety as he stayed behind and expended his ammunition to provide the covering fire. The outstanding gallantry, devotion to his fellow soldier, and his intense dedication to duty displayed by Staff Sergeant Archuletta were in keeping with the finest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, the Americal Division, and the United States Army.” – Silver Star (2nd Oak Leaf Cluster) [October ’67] (awarded posthumously)

Prior citations for SFC Archuletta dating back to his first tour in 1966 describe a non-commissioned officer with the determination to protect the lives of the soldiers in his command.

“He immediately moved, to the front of his patrol, charged the insurgent and killed him, Moments after, this initial contact, three men were pinned down, by intense hostile fire. With complete disregard for his safety, Staff Sergeant, Archuletta, charged forward and killed, two more Viet Cong, before he was, seriously wounded himself.” Bronze Star with “V” Device [July ’66]
(Above: Louis Archulleta talks to News5 about his brother's experiences)

Another from 1967 details providing aid to his point squad as they came under heavy automatic weapons fire in an exposed rice paddy.

“After ensuring, that the wounded troopers were given, proper medical attention and had been moved back, to a safe position, he manned the machinegun and put out, a heavy volume of firepower, until running out of ammunition. Knowing, that the machinegun was drastically needed, in order to obtain, superior fire power, Sergeant Archuletta, fired his own rifle as he maneuvered, from position to position in order, to gather additional ammunition. After gathering, the desperately needed ammunition, Sergeant Archuletta, again opened up, with the machinegun and was instrumental, in saving one trooper’s life and repelling, the vicious enemy assault.” Silver Star (First Oak Leaf Cluster) [October ’67] (awarded posthumously)