The stretch of Santa Fe Drive between I-25 and C-470 now stands as a memorial to a Littleton native who was killed in 2005 in Afghanistan.
On Aug. 18, that section of road was renamed the “Navy SEAL Danny Dietz Memorial Highway.”
Dietz was killed in Afghanistan on June 28, 2005. According to military reports, Dietz, the team’s communications specialist, saved the lives of three of his fellow soldiers that day. Sixteen other SEALs died in the battle, the single worst day for American fatalities in the war in Afghanistan.
State Sen. Mike Kopp, R-Littleton, pushed legislation earlier this year to get the highway renamed, calling Dietz's actions an act of "stunning bravery … in defense of values, and in defense of a country he holds dear."
"Danny is truly worthy, at the very least, of this modest honor," Kopp said.
He told Dietz's assembled friends, family and former colleagues that the signs naming the road will "have real, lasting value," and "maybe (people driving by) will learn a little bit about his heroism and take note of it."
Rear Adm. Edward G. Winters III, commander of the Naval Special Warfare Command, praised Dietz’s family and thanked them.
"You don't get kids like Danny, men like Danny, unless they have the right upbringing," Winters said. "Many operations Danny went on were after what I would call evil men. You could say he was protecting this nation, and you could say he was protecting humanity."
Dietz's wife, Patsy, said all her husband ever wanted to do was serve in the military. Honoring that service on the stretch of highway that runs through Littleton is fitting, she said.
"This is where he grew up, and his dreams blossomed to become a Navy SEAL," she told the group gathered for the naming ceremony. "And this is his final resting place. I hope his story inspires you to be a better person and a better American."
The story of Dietz and his team is told in "Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10." Kopp said after the ceremony that the book, and meeting the Dietz family, was all he needed to win approval for the legislation renaming the highway.
"To me, this is the epitome of American patriotism," Kopp said.
Dietz's actions that day should never be forgotten, Kopp said.
"Ultimately, America is about patriots," Kopp said. "And it's about what is so precious that drives people to serve like that."