Texas National Guard soldier missing after rescuing illegal migrant in Rio Grande River

Townhall Media/Julio Rosas

Tragic news broke Friday that a Texas National Guard soldier was missing after rescuing a female illegal migrant as she attempted to cross the Rio Grand River at Eagle Pass, Texas. Some news outlets reported that the soldier was dead while others referred to him as missing. As I write this early Saturday morning, the Texas National Guard has not confirmed a death, only that the soldier is missing.

The mixed messaging made matters worse. The soldier was part of Operation Lone Star, Governor Abbott’s border security initiative. The Texas Military Department refused to confirm the soldier’s death, instead saying at the time that the soldier “has gone missing.”

“A Texas Army National Guard Soldier assigned to Operation Lone Star has gone missing along the river during a mission-related incident, Friday April 22, 2022 in Eagle Pass, Texas,” the Texas Military Department said.

The department said any reports that the soldier had drowned were “inaccurate” as of Friday afternoon.

It was Maverick County Sheriff Tom Schmerber who said the soldier drowned trying to rescue the migrant. He said the soldier was swept away by the river’s current. He cited the deceptively calm river at that crossing as an explanation as to why the soldier drowned.

The soldier has not been found,” the department explained. “We are aware of reports of a fatality, although those reports are inaccurate.”

The Texas Military Department, Texas DPS and Border Patrol are searching for the soldier.

“It’s very dangerous, this river, the Rio Grande — it’s very tricky,” Sheriff Schmerber told the Times.

Sheriff Schmerber said the woman was safe and in Border Patrol custody. The soldier dived into the water after seeing the woman struggle in a dangerous stretch of the Rio Grande River. He vanished and was not seen again. The rescue mission turned into a recovery mission to find and recover the soldier’s body. The sheriff explained that the river is called the Rio Bravo, a nod to the river flowing “like an angry bull” at the spot she tried to cross. And, he said that perhaps the National Guard is slow to say the soldier is dead because they don’t want bad publicity.

The sheriff said the incident occurred close to a tributary called Seco Creek, where the water is deep and muddy and migrants drown as often as twice a week.

“It’s sad. That river looks like it’s not dangerous but it’s very dangerous,” he said. “That’s why they call it the Rio Bravo in Spanish. Bravo means like a bull, like an angry bull.”

When told of the guard’s statement that the soldier wasn’t dead, Schmerber reiterated that he believed the soldier was presumed to have drowned. More than four hours after the incident, “he would be walking around” if he were alive.

“I understand the National Guard and so forth. They don’t want bad publicity, maybe, but that’s the way it is,” he said.

Sheriff Schmerber said he received word from one of the captains that they found some of the soldier’s belonging by the river. Body armor was one item mentioned, which the soldier would likely remove before jumping into the river.

There is really little doubt that the soldier probably died trying to rescue the woman. Despite the fact that Democrats and other anti-Border Patrol critics like to depict the border law enforcement agents as uncaring, willing to whip migrants crossing the Rio Grande River, the truth is that they rescue migrants crossing the river to break U.S. law and enter our country without bothering to go through proper channels. They also rescue people on land, often unaccompanied children. This week an unaccompanied two-year-old was found in desert terrain. A three-year-old child was found a day later. Both were just found all alone without an adult. They likely were victims of human traffickers, the very criminals that Abbott’s Operation Lone Star is fighting at the border. The Biden border crisis is a humanitarian crisis and it’s deadly and dangerous to both the illegal migrants and to law enforcement at the border.

As I mentioned above, the messaging in this tragic story is bad. The confusion between saying the soldier is missing versus that he is dead is not helpful. It’s likely that the Texas National Guard doesn’t want to confirm the death until it verified the identity of the soldier – which it could once some of his belongings were found by the river – and notification of next of kin was carried out. The search for the body is expected to continue today.