During this patriotic week, Johnny Ray M. Archuleta’s thoughts stray to the military members, past and present, who protect our country. At a recent interview at his mother’s It’s A Small World Salon & Boutique in Taos, Archuleta thanked the veterans from all branches for their service. He plans to join the military himself soon.
“I was sworn into the Army June 1, and I’ll ship out Aug. 7, 2017,” said Archuleta. He'll head to Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri for his introductory assignment.
Archuleta’s road to the military took several turns. “I wanted to join the military when I was very young. I got into trouble in 2015, and instead of continuing my schooling in Taos, I attended the New Mexico Youth Challenge Academy in Roswell. This opened another door for me. It showed me that there is a better way of living than what I was doing at the time,” Archuleta explained. When he graduated from the academy, he had earned a GED diploma, 15 college credits and certificates for CPR and first aid.
Since leaving the academy, Archuleta has wanted to sign up for the Army. Before doing so, he completed short-term jobs as a plumber’s assistant, a handyman, landscaper and work at Taos Pizza Out Back. With a bit of money in his pocket, the future soldier took an extended 3 1/2-month-long vacation to California. He concentrated his time at Bakersfield and Azusa, the former home of his mother and her family. Archuleta returned to Taos in September for the wedding of his mother, Valorie (Archuleta), to Mark Cardenas. “I wanted to ship out after the wedding because I didn’t want to miss it,” he said.
In the meantime, he returned to various jobs. His latest position includes working on above-ground irrigation systems in a facility off Salazar Road. He fixes aluminum pipe and gates. As a part of this work, he learned how to drive a tractor.
When asked why he decided to join the Army, he pointed to his little brother, Ivan (2 years old in September), and said, “Because of him. I want to be his role model, one who will make him proud. I want him to know that there’s a better way of life.”
Archuleta is so certain that he’ll enjoy the Army that he mapped out a plan. His contract calls for a term of three years and 25 weeks. Then, he plans to re-enlist. During his second year, Archuleta hopes to continue college, earning an associate degree in business in order to open a security business when he completes the service. Then, he plans to continue his studies and earn a Bachelor of Arts in gunsmithing and minor in the Korean language; he hopes to serve in South Korea someday. His contracted job assignment is small arms and artillery repair. His plans call for a 10-year stint in order to avail his possible future children use of the G.I. Bill. If he likes the Army, Archuleta foresees a future of serving for 20 years – until retirement.
Archuleta didn’t work toward his patriotic goals by accident. A strong support system includes his mom; stepdad; siblings Ariana Archuleta and her partner, Pete Trujillo, who Archuleta considers a brother; and Ivan Cardenas. He is the proud uncle of little Estrella Trujillo. Johnny Ray Archuleta’s dad is Manuel Archuleta Jr. His grandparents include Manuel Se and Porfie Archuleta, as well as Beverly Sandoval, of Albuquerque.
During his formative years, Archuleta spent a year on each of three sports: basketball (The Dribbling Machine at Enos García Elementary School), baseball (The Rockies) and hockey (The Coyotes). For two years, he enjoyed boxing through Los Tigres. He played soccer in Roswell. Besides sports, Archuleta completed yardwork for his mother’s clients in order to pay for his cellphone.
As this week’s subject became older, he enjoyed walking all over town, sometimes from Ranchos de Taos to El Prado and back. Archuleta enjoys spending time with his dad and little brother. He loves the Rodeo de Taos, the color blue and Ramen noodles. Archuleta said his “dream” cars are a blue ’57 Chevrolet Bel Air and a black ’69 Chevrolet Impala. His favorite pizza is pepperoni, jalapeño and green chile. Johnny Ray Archuleta’s fondness for spicy foods extends to Cholula sauce (with or without lime) and yellow banana peppers with added lime salt.
Besides becoming a soldier, one of his big goals is to eventually buy his mom a house.