Bethany Freudenthal, Las Cruces Sun-News
Published 3:35 p.m. MT May 7, 2019 | Updated 3:36 p.m. MT May 7, 2019
LAS CRUCES – For law enforcement officers across the nation, this week is for remembering the lives of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, and rejoicing in how they lived.
In southern New Mexico Tuesday, both officers and community members from the region gathered at Mesilla Park Community Church, to remember the fallen.
During this year’s ceremony, former Las Cruces Police Chief Jaime Montoya was remembered by his wife Bernice, in a statement read by Jaime’s brother, Gabino Montoya: “As I find myself rummaging through various mementos Jaime kept, and let me tell you, he saved everything, and several pieces of paper notes, cards, and well wishes from his high school days, I’m seeing the same word over and over, that word is ‘friend.'”
Montoya, who worked for the Las Cruces Police Department for 26 years, died Jan. 3, at age 51, shortly after he retired, due to illness. He possessed the natural ability to make friends, because be listened, cared and could relate, according to those who knew him best.
In the memorial, Gabino Montoya said the Montoya family was proud of the work Jaime accomplished as a police officer, and the family saw his strength and courage during his illness.
“He never complained and he was so brave and managed a smile when he didn’t feel like it. The lessons I’ve learned from Jaime are plenty, but the most important one that I learned from him is to forgive. Everyone’s shortcomings and meaning, try not to hold a grudge, live life to the best and live as good as you can,” Montoya said.
Sonya Chaves, with the U.S. Marshal’s office, said Jaime Montoya made a huge impact on the community, and within each law enforcement agency.
“Chief Montoya will always be an example of excellence in this law enforcement community. He cared about people, and he told them and he showed them he cared about them,” she said.
In an interview with the Las Cruces Sun-News, Chaves County Chief Deputy Charles Yslas said there was never any question as to the career path he would choose.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do since I was a young kid. I admired the officers when I was growing up, it’s been a lifelong goal,” he said.
One thing he’s learned during his 21-year career is how to work with people.
“It’s something that’s very, very important in community policing, both dealing with the criminal element, as well as the public itself,” he said.
The memorial is a time for officers to come together, and Yslas said it’s important for living officers not to forget their fallen brethren.
“The ultimate sacrifice that they traded their life for someone they may or may not have known, which is the ultimate that you can give somebody, for a person to put their life on the line daily for somebody and for the public they don’t know, is something that’s not a normal thing in society,” Yslas said.
With service, comes family, Ysalas said.
“You develop that family and brotherhood, and everybody’s brothers and sisters, whether related or not, once you’re in this field, no matter what color uniform you wear. You’re all brothers and sisters and you take care of each other,” he said.
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