DOLORES FRANCISCO BARRETO-RODRIGUEZ
April 2, 1946 – January 11, 2017
Arecibo is a town in northern Puerto Rico. It lies on a small inlet near the mouth of the Arecibo River. In 1946, still celebrating the end of WWII, the bright sun of Arecibo first shone on the face of Dolores Francisco “Frank” Barreto-Rodriguez. His birth was the pride of his father Luis Rodriguez and mother Florencia Barreto. Much of Frank’s early life remains undiscovered to us, but we know his family settled in Smyrna, Georgia where he enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1968 and found himself dispatched to the big, bad, Central Highlands of Vietnam to confront his nation’s enemies. He volunteered to enter the combat as one of the warriors of the 2nd Bde LRRPs of the 4th Infantry Division in Kontum Province, later transitioning to K Co., 75th Rangers when the unit was re-designated. It was a choice few men made, but none ever regretted.
Frank fought alongside some of the most storied and courageous men who ever served their country. Shortly after Col. Hal Moore’s Ia Drang experience depicted in the movie “We were Soldiers Once”, the 1st Cav. was replaced by the 4th Infantry Division. The stated mission was to “Tame the Ia Drang”. One of the first decisions made by command was to determine how best to know and locate the enemy before engaging them. The solution was to insert 4-man teams of Rangers, then called LRRPs, to surreptitiously live in the jungle amongst the enemy. Frank was one of the LRRP / Rangers who were tasked with the mission of seeking out the enemy. In an effort to unify the command of the various Division LRRPs, all were absorbed into one unit, 75th Rangers. The 4th Division LRRPs were all designated K Co., 75th Rangers. Frank distinguished himself as a LRRP proving mission after mission he was a warrior to be counted upon. He was a young man other Rangers could depend upon in all situations. He patrolled with several teams in late 1969 into 1970 earning the respect and gratitude of men who dole that respect out to very precious few and only those who earn it under fire. As with many of our brothers, we, sometimes, recall the amusing memories that made the tension of combat bearable. One such wonderful memory is fondly retold by Steve Lockard “They had had movement, but no contact. At extraction they popped smoke. The chopper pilots identified one color, but not the one they popped. I heard Barreto yell, “Bring pee on them, bring pee on them” in his best PR accent. Everybody on the radio was rolling with laughter”. Remembering the little but significant memories are the truest measure of how high the regard of the men with whom you served. The combination of accent and excitement provided fodder for much teasing back at basecamp, he was a good Ranger and a good comrade.
We would like to say the Central Highlands were a little safer after Frank’s year, but that wouldn’t be true. We can, however, can say with certainty there were considerably fewer enemy combatants lurking in the jungle due to Frank and his brother Rangers. In a senior staff briefing attended by our Commanding Officer Captain Kim Olmstead, MG Pepke, C.O. of 4th Division stated to all the other unit commanders “The Rangers are out-killing the entire division”.
Frank was awarded the coveted Combat Infantryman’s Badge as well as a Bronze Star, Purple Heart and various other awards and decorations before hanging up his uniform and returning to the “world”. Apparently pubic service was in his blood for he joined the staff of The Small Business Administration and spent his entire career assisting people navigate the perils of dealing with the government. After a long career he retired from the SBA to finally take some time for himself to enjoy his ever-expanding family. He faithfully attended church at La Casa de Oración in Marietta, Georgia and was a dedicated husband, father, and a loving grandfather. At the time of his passing, survivors included his wife, Maria Luisa Barreto; daughter and son-in-law, Vilmarie and Philip Nixon; son and daughter-in-law, Rafael and Joy Guadalupe; son and daughter-in-law, Francisco and Bettina Barreto; daughter and son-in-law, Francheska and Jesse Hebden; and grandchildren, Felipe Nixon, Yaddiel Nixon, Ezra Nixon, Jarod Guadalupe, Jana Guadalupe, Samuel Barreto, Benjamin Barreto, Jackson Thompson, Maximus Hebden.
In the end, what all the NVA and VC could not do, was finally accomplished after a long battle with Cancer. Once again, Frank was called upon to courageously face an enemy he could not see and had no mercy. On January 11, 2017, surrounded by his family and comforted by the memories of his brother Rangers, he passed from this life. He was laid to rest with full military honors in Section 7D, Site 586 of the Georgia National Cemetery, Canton, GA. His exemplary service met the measure of honoring past Rangers and served to set a high standard for Rangers yet to come.