Sebastian Guerrero’s family and friends stood under a North Toledo billboard Wednesday and sang “Happy Birthday.”
The cheerful song echoed as a billboard installer smoothed out the edges of signboard with well-wishes, but Mr. Guerrero wasn’t present to celebrate turning 22 with family and friends.
Mr. Guerrero, who those close to him nicknamed, “Sobsob,” died a year ago on his 21st birthday — Feb. 28, 2017 — after he was struck by a tractor-trailer while fixing a flat tire on northbound I-75, according to a Toledo police report.
“We don’t realize how hard it is to pick up the pieces. Life is not promised. It could be today, tomorrow, it doesn’t carry a number,” said Mr. Guerrero’s aunt, Melinda Sanchez, who helped plan the setup of the billboard.
PHOTO GALLERY: Billboard Honors Sebastian Guerrero III
The group cheered and clapped Wednesday at the billboard’s completion, which features a large figure of Mr. Guerrero saluting in his military uniform with an American flag and eagle flying around him. Smaller photos of his bright smile are also featured on the sign.
Mr. Guerrero was an airman assigned to the 180th Fighter Wing, Ohio Air National Guard. He enlisted in September, 2013, as a services journeyman assigned to the Force Sustainment Squadron, and he had recently returned home from a six-month deployment overseas in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.
The billboard is at the corner of Lagrange Street and East Manhattan Boulevard, overlooking Mr. Guerrero’s grave site at Mount Carmel Cemetery, where the group later released balloons.
Mr. Guerrero’s mother, Crissy Guerrero, looked up at the billboard, smiling. She held Mr. Guerrero’s 2-year-old son, Sebastian, who pointed up at his father’s pictures, saying, “Dad.”
“It means everything. We can drive by and see it,” Mrs. Guerrero said.
It’s been a difficult year for the family, said Ms. Sanchez.
“You think he’s gone somewhere. You think he’s just away, but then you realize, he’s not coming home,” Ms. Sanchez said.
The family also wants to give back to the community after Mr. Guerrero’s death. A memorial fund has been established at Huntington Bank, and the family plans to donate a scholarship to a student every year on Mr. Guerrero’s birthday.
The family wants to help others because that’s something Mr. Guerrero would do.
“That’s how he was. He was the type of person that would help and would love everybody. He had a big heart,” Mrs. Guerrero said.
While the criteria for the scholarship are still in the initial planning phases, fundraising events will be held throughout the next year, the family said.
The billboard will be up for one month, but the family has a contract with Lamar Outdoor Advertising for three years for it to be placed at that location each year on his birthday.
Donations to the scholarship fund can be made at any Huntington Bank location.
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