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‘Helping me get through another day’

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – Like many other New Mexicans, Master Sgt. Michael Burd took the day after Thanksgiving off from his job at Kirtland Air Force Base. But Burd didn’t spend the day looking for Black Friday bargains in stores. Instead, the Albuquerque resident drove north to the hamlet of Rowe to visit a Vietnam veteran whose home was ravaged by fire on Sept. 12.

Rudy Archuleta in the garage of his Rowe home, which burned on Sept. 12. (Courtesy of U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Michael Burd)

The plight of 69-year-old Rudy Archuleta, who is now living in his garage with his two dogs, was brought to Burd’s attention Wednesday by a Facebook friend who had read about Archuleta in The Santa Fe New Mexican.

Burd, who is active in a variety of volunteer organizations that help veterans, wasted no time in setting up a GoFundMe campaign for Archuleta, whose household goods were damaged or destroyed by the blaze. That was something a lot of people had talked about doing since the fire, Archuleta said. Burd was the one who actually did it.

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Michael Burd took a selfie with Rudy Archuleta, a Vietnam veteran living in his garage whom Burd is trying to help.

On the first day of the appeal, which was set up on Thanksgiving, $1,240 was raised toward the goal of $5,000.

After braving a snowy drive up to Rowe to learn about Archuleta’s immediate needs, it was off to Home Depot in Santa Fe to pick up some insulation. Archuleta is having trouble staying warm with the heat given off by his wood stove.

The choice of Home Depot wasn’t an arbitrary one. Burd and the organizations that he is active in – including the Air Force Sergeants Association Chapter 1201 and the city of Albuquerque’s Veterans and Military Affairs Advisory Board – work closely with the retailer’s Team Depot arm to lend assistance to vets and their families who need their homes repaired.

After the trip to the home improvement store, Burd got on the phone and started using his network of contacts to find someone who would deliver firewood to Archuleta. It turns out a man named Mark Archuleta was willing to do the job. He lives just down the road from the Vietnam veteran, whom he’s actually related to, according to Burd.

Asked why he was willing to go out of his way to help Archuleta on a vacation day, Burd said, as a 16-year member of the Air Force, he has an instinct to help veterans, especially those who are in distress. He said Archuleta didn’t want to talk about his time in Vietnam during their visit, so Burd assumes “It must have been bad.”

It also wasn’t clear whether Archuleta had any other family members able to help him.

“He just talked about his Rowe family, which I assume are his neighbors,” Burd said.

Beyond his concern for fellow service members, Burd credits his mother, Susan Reedy, with instilling a sense of responsibility to the community in her son.

“When I was growing up, we were moving all over because my dad built stores for Dillard’s. But everywhere I went, my mom got me involved in volunteer projects. That’s just the way it was,” he said.

Burd is taking a two-pronged approach to helping Archuleta. First up: taking care of pressing short-term needs, such as getting firewood, insulation and some pots and pans so the veteran can be more comfortable.

Next, Burd and his team will work with Team Depot and other outreach organizations to see if they can get some temporary shelter, such as a trailer, for Archuleta, who doesn’t want to leave his home.

In a telephone interview, Archuleta expressed his gratitude to Burd for “helping me get through another day.”

“People have been calling and offering to send me money, but I need wood,” Archuleta said. “These storms are really bad.”

Those who want to help Archuleta can contribute at www.gofundme.com/f/fundraiser-for-veteran-rudy-archuleta.

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