When students and citizens take a stroll around Rio Rancho Middle School’s new walking track, they might want to take a moment to read the names on the sign on the northwest corner. At least two of these men walked the corridors of the building – one as a student, another as a mentor to students. All are heroes who gave their lives while serving their community.
The new crusher-fine track surrounding the school’s athletic field was dedicated this April in honor of five law enforcement officers who made the ultimate sacrifice. Mayor Gregg Hull, local law enforcement officers, and members of this year’s Leadership Sandoval County class joined RRMS principal Lynda Kitts and assistant principals B.J. Hartford and Andrew Pierce for the official ribbon-cutting. The track will be used by students and the community and will provide a tool for encouraging physical fitness.
The Trail of Heroes honors Rio Rancho police officers Germaine Casey, Anthony Haase, and Gregg “Nigel” Benner and Sandoval County deputies Joe Harris and Robert Baron, all of whom gave their lives in the line of duty. Haase was a RRPS student and star pitcher who graduated from Rio Rancho High in 2007. Joe Harris, in his years with RRPD and Sandoval County, was a familiar sight to students at what was then Rio Rancho Mid-High, often accompanied by his faithful therapy dog Harley. (The 2005 photo at left shows Deputy Harris at the school entrance with Harley and RRPS Chief Academic Officer Carl Leppelman.)
The project was spearheaded by Leadership Sandoval County as one of its community service projects. Sponsors including New Mexico Gas Company, BlackRock, JPR Decorative Gravel, ARI Graphix, Dion’s, Sams Club, WalMart, Rio Rancho Regional Chamber, Costco, Wesst, Menchies, Dave and Barbara Roybal, Lowes, Sunstate, and Little Caesars joined Rio Rancho Public Schools in completing the project.