Texas Guardsman, Border Patrol Agent rescues girl in drowning waters
Posted: Oct. 5, 2016
Story by: Sgt. Elizabeth Peña
Laredo, Texas -- Rain was pouring heavily and swift waters were rising fast along the Rio Grande River near Eagle Pass. Del Rio border patrol agents working in that area received a report and had to act fast.
“The days before and the day of the incident, Eagle Pass had received a lot of rain so the levels of the Rio Grande had risen more than normal; it got pretty deep,” said Sgt. Josue Gonzalez, border patrol agent and traditional guardsman with the 836th Engineer Company, Texas National Guard.
Gonzalez and another border patrol agent received a report that a large group of adults and children were crossing the river near the port of entry and several of the people in the group were seen floating uncontrollably downriver.
“When we got on site we saw a young man and woman being swept by the currents,” said Gonzalez. “The young man was able to swim so he was able to get back to the other side, but the girl wasn’t that lucky.”
The young woman grabbed onto a rope that was tied to the port of entry pillar as Gonzalez and his partner unsuccessfully attempted to throw her a rescue rope.
“She was afraid to let go of her rope and grab onto ours,” said Gonzalez. “So Garcia and I realized that if anything else would not be done, the possibilities of her being swept away were really high.”
Gonzalez and his partner tied the rescue ropes on to their waists and entered the water, but the strong current quickly swept them away as well, his determination however, remained strong.
“My adrenaline was pretty high,” he said. “It’s just something that you don’t think about and you do it on the spot as best as you can.”
With the assistance of agents on the riverbank, they were able to maneuver Gonzales and Garcia back to where the young woman was just as the rope she had been holding unto, tore.
After delivering her safely into the hands of local EMT’s, the two agents went back out to rescue other women and children stranded in the river.
“We were able to go back into the water chest deep and start pulling the people in,” said Gonzales. “The water was still rising but luckily we had each other’s back to bring those people in. We lost count at about 45 people.”
Gonzalez was awarded the Law Enforcement Congressional Badge of Bravery for his action that day, during a ceremony on Oct. 5, 2016, in Laredo.
“When someone puts on a uniform, whether it’s a military uniform or a law enforcement you’re doing it because you want to help your community and your country,” said Jesus A. Chan, Patrol Agent in Charge of Laredo Unit Intelligence Unit.
“I am honored to have been nominated, and humbled to have received it but this award goes beyond myself,” said Gonzalez. “It goes for every border patrol agent and federal law enforcement, state and local officers that put their uniform on, not knowing the dangers they may come across that day.”
Gonzalez attributes his fast response skills to his basic combat training with the Texas Army National Guard as well as the Army values that are instilled.
“The stress levels they put us through - allows us to keep composure and think,” said Gonzalez.
Texas Army National Guard Maj. Thomas Diaz De Leon III, commander of the border patrol search training and rescue team and 136th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade plans officer in charge, deployed with Gonzalez in 2007.
“He was an outstanding soldier then, and is an outstanding agent now, he is very professional and very humble,” said Diaz De Leon. “What he learned through being a soldier of the MEB, helping to mitigate human suffering and the understanding is that we are on call to help local citizens. He brought that understanding to his current job.”
The award was created to honor exceptional acts of bravery in the line of duty. In 2014, the U.S. Attorney General cited 16 recipients for the 2014 Law Enforcement Congressional Badge of Bravery.
“This heroic act measures the true character and fortitude of Agents Garcia and Gonzalez in the face of danger,” said Mathew J. Hudak, acting Chief Patrol Agent, Del Rio Sector.
“He sacrificed himself, so that somebody else may live. I think that is a very huge selfless service act,” said Diaz De Leon.