Know Your Neighbor: James Sanchez

Devoted to military life, family in two places

By Kathy Córdova
For The Taos News
Posted 5/16/19

Career military man James Sanchez splits his time between Taos and Beverly, Kansas.Sanchez began his life in Albuquerque as the son of retired architect and …

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Know Your Neighbor: James Sanchez

Devoted to military life, family in two places


Career military man James Sanchez splits his time between Taos and Beverly, Kansas.

Sanchez began his life in Albuquerque as the son of retired architect and former town of Taos Councilman A. Eugene Sanchez and Jermaine McGregor of Cuba, New Mexico. He spent time visiting grandparents Joe and Mary Sanchez and attended middle school in Taos. His three siblings are Cory Sanchez, who lives in Colombia, South America; Zack Grey of Los Angeles, California; and Flower (Mark) Houlihan who lives in Tennessee.

James Sanchez proudly stated that he's a member of at least four generations of the Sanchez family in Taos including his great grandpa Felimon (Bella) Sanchez, grandfather Joe (Mary) Sanchez, dad Gene (Jules) Sanchez and himself.

Military Career

Sanchez graduated from Lafayette High School in Lexington, Kentucky. Following graduation, he signed up with the U.S. Air Force in 1983.

In the Air Force, Sanchez joined the pararescuers, also known as parajumpers or PJs, a Combat Search and Rescue Squad founded in World War II. The squad, still part of the Army Air Corps, follows the philosophy: "Do not leave any soldier behind enemy lines or in any environment." The search and rescue unit also assists in missions during peace time such as rescuing people from rooftops during Hurricane Katrina.

From 1983 to 2011, Sanchez belonged to Field Team 6, conducting countless missions and received credit for saving 147 lives. In 1992, Sanchez became part of the Joint Special Operations Tier 1, a group to which he belonged for seven years.

His service took a physical toll. At one point, he suffered a heart attack on a jump, and in another incident, broke his back.

Multiple tours in Afghanistan also formed a part of parajumper Sanchez's service. Stateside, Sanchez directed a pararescue school at Kirtland Air Force Base. He was highly decorated for over 3,000 parachute jumps.

In 2011, Sanchez retired from the service.

After the military

After retirement, Sanchez started a new phase of his life. He met Veronica Mendoza in Albuquerque in the fall of 2013; the couple wed in 2015. James Sanchez's two children are Samantha Sanchez, 30, who resides in Houston, Texas, and Joseph Sanchez, 19, who plans to join the Army following his graduation soon.

Retirement did not mean time to rest for Sanchez. He went to work at the Cuba, New Mexico, Police Department. Sanchez provided training in active shooting scenarios. He volunteered as a part-time Reserve Officer and served as fire chief from 2012 to 2014.

Sanchez then accepted a position as medical director for Cubic Global Defense in Colorado Springs. He described his duties as "traveling to various countries to teach combat medical training to foreign soldiers." Sanchez worked with people from former Eastern bloc countries Lithuania and the Republic of Georgia, and also Somalia.

When he turned 50, James retired from Cubic Global Defense.

Sanchez, his wife and son moved to the 100-plus-year-old family farm owned by his mother and uncle in Kansas in 2017. The crops include wheat, milo and alfalfa, and cattle for livestock. "I continue part-time extra work teaching for government organizations. I've also cared for my 113- year-old grandfather, a World War II Navy veteran," said Sanchez.

With Veronica, whom he calls "my best friend," Sanchez enjoys taking drives to spot deer, turkeys or sunsets, walking by the river and planning a garden in the country. He likes spending time outdoors, including horses and hunting. He watches action and military movies at home, but also watches his wife's favorite romances with her.

Still interested in participating in the military life Sanchez serves in the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars). Throughout the years, he worked in leadership ranks, and recently accepted the position as commander of the central Kansas post in London.

Helping out in Taos

When Sanchez's stepmother, Jules, passed away August 5, 2018, the family requested his help to care for his father, Gene. Sanchez did so, but his wife and son remained in Kansas to allow Joseph to complete his senior year of high school. Each month, Sanchez travels to Kansas to complete the duties of his office and spend time with his family. "My current activities are not a burden. Caring for Dad is a biggest honor. I miss my family, but I'm glad to spend time with my dad, telling stories," Sanchez declared.

Father and son like to spend time listening to a Wurlitzer jukebox, which contains 300 songs from the '60s and '70s, and taking day trips to Eagle Nest Lake.

"Children need to help their parents in the parents' older years … honor thy father and thy mother. The youth today need to learn to care for their loved ones. No Sanchez has ever died in a nursing home. Dad enjoys visiting people that come by to pay their respects. His biggest joy is time visiting with Arsenio [Cordova] on the phone or in person," said Sanchez.

"Family comes first. I like helping people and being appreciated. These special attributes can occur in Taos, in Kansas and wherever I may be," said Sanchez.

Editor's note: This story was written days before Gene Sanchez passed away peacefully May 11. A memorial service will be held Saturday, June 15. Location to be announced. Interment with military honors will take place at the Santa Fe National Cemetery. Arrangements by Rivera Family Funeral Home.


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