GREENFIELD — New highway signs were installed last week to honor five Monterey County veterans, including Greenfield’s Sgt. Javier Sanchez Jr., who gave his life during service in Afghanistan after two tours in Iraq.
“Our community will always remember Sgt. Sanchez because of his contributions to our community, and we’re proud of this sign,” said Chris Lopez, District 3 county supervisor. “For generations to come, people will Google this name and wonder why this name is here just outside Greenfield. They will learn his story. They will know of his dedication of his contribution to the freedom we all enjoy, every single day.”
“It is a really good day for us,” said Javier Sanchez, the father of Sanchez Jr. “Thank you to everybody in the community who helped to make it happen.”
Both parents, Javier Sanchez and Margarita Sanchez, were present for the dedication of the new sign last Friday. Other family members were unable to make the short ceremony.
Javier Sanchez said the family is from Greenfield, and they will pass by the sign on their return drives to town and be reminded of the 5-mile stretch through Greenfield that honors his son.
The process began five years ago when Sanchez Jr.’s family approached then District 3 County Supervisor Simon Salinas and Luis Alejo, who at the time was the region’s state assembly member. Their idea was to honor fallen service members and their families. Alejo introduced legislation that was carried in 2016, but was caught in procedural limbo.
“When I became a supervisor, we made it a bill sponsored by Monterey County,” said Alejo, who is currently the District 1 county supervisor. “We got it approved finally. It was the first legislation in the State of California where they approved five veteran signs to be installed for fallen soldiers.”
In addition to Sanchez Jr.’s family, last week the families of Specialist Vilmar Galarza, Edward Balli, Ranger Ricardo Cerror Jr. and Private First Class Conrado Javier all gathered to view the new signs installed near their home locations.
Sanchez Jr.’s sign is located on the southbound side of Highway 101 before the Thorne Road exit.
Alejo said merely getting legislative support was only the first step, as Cal Trans needed approval for all five sites, one in Greenfield, three in Salinas and one in Seaside.
“We had to fundraise about $30,000 to get these signs installed,” Alejo said.
He added that Lopez, businesses and individuals all worked together to make the signs a reality. Vanguard Construction stepped up and donated the labor needed to finish the project as well.
“We were able to make this all a reality for these gold star families,” Alejo said.
“Thanks to Mr. Alejo and his office and all of our politicians, this came true for myself, my family and all the other four families,” Javier Sanchez said.
“These signs are going to be here forever, long after we’re no longer here,” Alejo said. “These signs are going to remain with those names of these soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country in Afghanistan. These are Monterey County men, born and raised here.”