MECCA, Calif. -

The Indio California Highway Patrol honored a man killed in the line of duty.  The CHP remembered an officer whose impact is being felt more than ten years after his death.  CHP Officer Saul Martinez died on May 15, 1997, seven days after being struck by a vehicle on May 8, 1997.  CHP Officers Saul Martinez and James Donovan Rice, paired on a graveyard shift, were investigating a vehicle parked on the shoulder of a road north of Palm Springs.  An oncoming car, traveling more than 15 feet off the roadway, barreled down on the two officers.  Martinez shoved his partner to safety, only to be struck and critically injured himself.  The 39-year-old officer died seven days later without regaining consciousness.  "He'll always be my hero, I'm here because of him," said Officer Rice.  "There's not a day that goes by that I'm not reminded and thoughtful."

CHP Officers, dignitaries and hundreds of students joined the Martinez family and their friends at the school that bears his name in Mecca.  They gathered to remember the man who protected this community, fought for the rights of farm workers and became the face of "El Protector," a CHP traffic and safety program for the Latino community.  Martinez had just been named "Latino Peace Officer of the Year" for San Bernardino and Riverside counties in recognition of his outstanding service on the program.  Governor Pete Wilson posthumously presented him with the "Medal of Valor," the state's highest award in recognition of heroism. "Well, it's a big honor to see them again, and just by them showing here, means no one's forgotten," said his wife, Remedios Martinez. 

The CHP honored Martinez and his family by unveiling the sign which dedicates part of state route 86 in his name.  "His legacy and his memory is alive more than ever, and it's really beautiful and inspiring to see," said Saul Martinez Jr., Saul's son.  "I'm very humbled by all this."

The Saul Martinez Memorial Highway will stretch on State Route 86 from I-10 to one mile north of Airport Boulevard.  His family and friends say it serves of a reminder that his legacy lives on.  "He wasn't working for the accolades, he was working for what was important, which was helping others, sacrificing himself," said Saul Jr. 

The ceremony closed with a flyover by CHP airplanes and a helicopter.  His family says a sign that no matter how much time passes, all they need to do is look up to see their hero.  "Oh, he's always been alive," said Remedios.  "He's never been dead, just all around us."


   



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     SINGING, MARIACHI, CHEERING, EVEN DANCING GAVE WAY TO TEARS, PRAYER AND REFLECTION--ALL TO HONOR THE LIFE OF A HERO.
     CALIFORNIA HIGHWAY PATROL OFFICER SAUL MARTINEZ SACRIFICED HIS LIFE TO SAVE HIS PARTNER'S MORE THAN 16 YEARS AGO..
     MARTINEZ PUSHED OFFICER DONOVAN RICE OUT OF THE WAY OF AN ONCOMING CAR, HE DIED FROM HIS INJURIES A WEEK LATER.
     
"He'll always be my hero, I'm here because of him.  There's not a day that goes by that I'm not reminded and thoughtful."

     C-H-P OFFICERS, DIGNITARIES AND HUNDREDS OF STUDENTS JOINED MARTINEZ' FAMILY AND FRIENDS  AT THE SCHOOL THAT BEARS HIS NAME IN MECCA.
     THEY GATHERED TO REMEMBER THE MAN WHO PROTECTED THIS COMMUNITY, FOUGHT FOR THE RIGHTS OF FARM WORKERS, AND BECAME THE FACE OF "EL PROTECTOR," OR THE PROTECTOR, A SAFETY PROGRAM FOR THE LATINO COMMUNITY.
     
"Well, it's a big honor to see them again, and just by them showing here, means no one's forgotten."

     TO MAKE SURE NO ONE FORGETS, THE C-H-P HONORED MARTINEZ AND HIS FAMILY BY UNVEILING THE SIGN WHICH DEDICATES PART OF STATE ROUTE 86 IN HIS NAME.

"His legacy and his memory is alive more than ever, and it's really beautiful and inspiring to see.  I'm very humbled by all this."

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THE SAUL MARTINEZ MEMORIAL HIGHWAY WILL STRETCH ON HIGHWAY 86 FROM HERE AT I-10 TO ONE MILE NORTH OF AIRPORT BOULEVARD.  HIS FAMILY AND FRIENDS SAY A REMINDER OF HIS LEGACY THAT LIVES ON.

"He wasn't working for the accolades, he was working for what was important, which was helping others, sacrificing himself."

     THE CEREMONY CLOSED WITH A FLYOVER BY C-H-P AIRPLANES AND A HELICOPTER.
     HIS FAMILY SAYS A SIGN THAT NO MATTER HOW MUCH TIME PASSES, ALL THEY NEED TO DO IS LOOK UP TO SEE THEIR HERO.

"Oh he's always been alive, he's never been dead, just all around us."

     GREG LEE, NEWS CHANNEL 3, MECCA.



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