Florencio had been on the job for only three years, eager to prove himself among the fraternity of Texas Border Patrol agents. A scorching summer day along the Rio Grande is one this agent will never forget.
I’d only been in the Border Patrol for three years. I still considered myself a trainee, not like the seasoned agents at the McAllen Texas Border Patrol station. I was working the evening shift during a hot July, with temperatures screaming over 110 and the kind of unsettling humidity that makes your gear feel twice as heavy on your torso.
We’d just been dismissed from muster, and I was assigned about a mile away from the station, three and a half miles north from the Rio Grande River. Across the border lay the city of Reynosa. I was a trainee. Tactically geared and eager to single-handedly solve the immigration problem, a .40 H&K on my side and an M4 strapped on my shoulder.
About two hours into the shift, nothing seemed to be happening. The sensors allocated on the river were outdated, but they still worked. I grew tired of patrolling along the dusty flood way paralleling the river. Then one of the sensors triggered, so I started walking toward the spot to see what was making the ruckus.
I contacted my nearest coworker on the service radio and told him where I’d be going. Of course, I was really just excited to prove to the Border Patrol fraternity that I was doing my job, interesting in gaining their acceptance and proving myself.
Three quarters of the way south along the road, I could feel my black Danner boots melting into the dirt. Sweat poured outta me, dripping down over my bulletproof vest. I got off the road and started into the brush to the west where the sensor had tripped, working my way through the dense foliage.
My radio buzzed to life. It was my partner, frantically screaming about a vehicle he’d intercepted, loaded with what seemed to be narcotics. It was headed north, and my partner had intercepted them, and the driver had flipped it around and was hauling south, directly toward me.
At that time, the drug-trafficking method of operation was pretty consistent. Traffickers would rather risk their lives and drive the vehicle straight into the river in order to evade apprehension. Forget the load they’re carrying, they’d rather just escape with their freedom. I knew exactly what they were going to do, and I wanted to be the one to stop them.
The car came closer and I locked eyes with the driver. I’d never seen this guy in my life.
I raced back through the dense brush toward the river road to the east, my gear and weapons heavy as hell. That’s when a vehicle came into view. At first I thought it was one of ours, because I didn’t know why it was coming west. But it came closer and I locked eyes with the driver and I’d never seen this guy in my life. The car was barreling down toward me, the engine roaring, and after what seemed like an eternity, I drew my M4 and fired a single round. The driver swerved, and I dove into the high grass. Seemed like the car missed me by mere inches.
I got back up and keyed my radio and called “shots fired, shots fired!” That’s when I noticed my ankle was broken and I was limping. Seconds later my partner arrived and picked me up, and we sped west toward the car.
We found the vehicle by the river bank. The mules had taken some bundles back south, but couldn’t carry the rest. There was about 1500 pounds of drugs left in that car, a sizeable haul that my partner and I could gloat about.
The next few hours were a blur. Reports taken about the shooting. DEA took the drugs into custody, but not before we could take a few trophy shots. And I got my ankle bandaged up.
We stand fast at the nation’s border because we choose to serve our country, not because the immigration issue is a hot political topic on any given day.
That night I got home my daughter was sound asleep. I tucked her into bed and snuck into my bedroom with my wife, trying not to wake her.
The next day, I thought I’d hear my name called concerning the case. A word of congratulations, perhaps. But nothing was said, not even on the paperwork. But I still felt like I’d done my job and done it well.
Several years later, one of our hard charger supervisors retired. He said that his greatest regret was not spending enough time with his family, and he said he didn’t wish that on any of us. The most important part of our job is going home alive. That day was not the first or the last time I’d come into contact with drug traffickers, but it was the day I realized how unprepared and naïve I was at the time. Every day of every hour, a Border Patrol agent puts on his uniform, leaves his family and goes to work. And just like every law enforcement offer, we have the hope that we’ll see them again when the day is over. We stand fast at the nation’s border because we choose to serve our country, not because it’s an election year, or if the immigration issue is a hot political topic on any given day. We do it because we love our nation, and tonight, we’re coming home.