Assemblymember Salas Honors Fallen Soldier, SSG Ricardo Barraza, at Memorial Highway Dedication Ceremony
SHAFTER – Today, a memorial highway dedication ceremony was held in honor of the late Army Staff Sergeant Ricardo “Ricky” Barraza, a distinguished and courageous American who gave his life for his country, at the Shafter Veteran’s Hall. Assemblymember Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield) and community leaders joined family, friends and comrades of Barraza to pay tribute to his memory and unveil the sign to designate the portion of State Route 43 that runs through the city of Shafter as the Staff Sergeant Ricardo “Ricky” Barraza Memorial Highway. Last year, Salas authored Assembly Concurrent Resolution (ACR) 70 to designate the highway in Barraza’s honor.
“Today we pay tribute to a hero, Staff Sergeant Ricardo Barraza, and recall his devotion to duty and honor his service to our country,” said Salas. “His exemplary service and ultimate sacrifice, and the sacrifice and burden borne by his family, are truly heroic. I am grateful for the chance to honor his memory and to dedicate this road to Staff Sergeant Barraza to always remember his bravery and sacrifice, and as a reminder of the brave men and women in uniform that sacrifice every day to protect our country.”
“The response from the Shafter and Ranger community was overwhelming,” said his mother, Nina Barraza. “The naming of Hwy 43 in honor of my son is not just for the Barraza family, it is for the entire Shafter community. There is nothing more we could do to memorialize the sacrifice my son made. I am beyond proud of him. This highway dedication will last for generations to come and I hope that they never forget those who lost their lives for our country.”
“As an Air Force veteran returning to the community, it was extremely important to me to increase awareness about Staff Sergeant Ricardo Barraza’s sacrifice,” said Mariana Sobolewski, a close friend of the Barraza family. “In a sense, I made my next mission after retiring from the Air Force all about memorializing Staff Sergeant Ricardo Barraza’s sacrifice. I wanted to ensure that others in the community continued to honor his sacrifice for years to come.”
Born May 31, 1981, Barraza was one of five children. He attended Shafter High School, where he excelled in athletics, playing basketball, football and track. After graduating in 1999, he enlisted in the United States Army and dedicated his life to serving his country.
“Ricardo was the type of human our society needs more of,” said Terry Lewis, one of Barraza’s former high school coaches. “He made the ultimate sacrifice to his country, family and friends by defending our country and our freedom. The dedication of Highway 43 through Shafter is a much deserved gesture toward the recognition of our hero.”
Barraza achieved the position of squad leader and was assigned 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Fort Lewis, Washington. Barraza was a six-time veteran of the Global War on Terrorism, deploying three times in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and was on his third deployment in support of Iraqi Freedom. He was tragically killed by small-arms fire March 18, 2006 in western Iraq at the young age of 24.
Barraza was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal with Valor Device, Purple Heart Medal and Meritorious Service Medal. During his time in the military, Barraza was a decorated service member who received many awards, including the Army Commendation Medal with two oak leaf clusters, Army Achievement Medal with oak leaf cluster, Army Good Conduct Medal with a two-knot rope, and the National Defense Service Medal.
# # #