May 14 - May 20
Welcome to another This Week in USBP History!
In the spirit of constant growth and improvement, I've revamped the format of our blog. I hope you'll find it even more engaging and easier to navigate. As always, I'm eager to hear your thoughts and feedback.
The Injustice Hidden in Plain Sight
Have you ever had a moment of revelation that changed your path forever? I had one of those in 2018. As the Border Patrol’s Awards Coordinator, I was standing before a display of the Patrol's fallen, during the time I was drafting the USBP's Honorary Awards policy. I was confronted by the faces of our honored, and a shocking realization hit me - our Purple Cross Medal system was severely flawed.
This prestigious honor, meant to commemorate the wounds and injuries suffered by our brave Border Patrol Agents, was so restricted in its criteria that only a handful of our fallen would ever qualify. The harsh reality was that even death wasn't enough to earn the Purple Cross. It was a bitter pill to swallow, and I knew something had to change.
The Purple Cross: A Legacy of Sacrifice
As we journey through Police Week in Washington D.C., we honor our nation's law enforcement officers who lost their lives in the line of duty over the past year. This week also extends recognition to officers from years past, such as Border Patrol Inspector Orin F. Hush , whose name was added to the Patrol’s honor roll nearly a century after his 1927 death.
The following names join the distinguished Honor Roll of the Patrol this year:
A Personal Journey Towards Reform
Propelled by a sense of justice, I aimed to redraft the criteria for the Purple Cross, only to be met with unexpected resistance. I remember one conversation with a headquarters Associate Chief. Under the new criteria I proposed, his significant injuries suffered early in his career would qualify him for the Purple Cross. Yet, he was staunchly against my proposal. I reminded him of the state of the low morale of the Border Patrol workforce and informed him, “You are part of the problem!”
Triumph in Reform
However, by 2020, my drafted Purple Cross criteria had been approved, with Chief Scott's signature. This revised criteria was a significant leap towards recognizing the sacrifices of service of the workforce. It provided a broader scope of recognition, ensuring that those who sustained permanent impairments, fatal injuries, or injuries from an assault in the line of duty, were aptly honored. This allowed the Patrol to better acknowledge the valiant service and immense sacrifice of the workforce, ensuring that the families of agents who die in the line of duty would receive a tangible symbol of their loved one's service and sacrifice. Furthermore, it created a tier to recognize agents whose injuries were due to the criminal acts of another, a deadly weapon or received during an act of heroism to be distinguished with the addition of a "V" device affixed to their Purple Cross ribbon. The revised Purple Cross criteria served as a testament to the Patrol's commitment to honor every agent's service and sacrifice appropriately.
A Continued Fight for Recognition
As we honor the Patrol’s fallen this week, we must not forget those the Patrol has overlooked. In This Week in USBP History, Vol. 86, I shared an email sent to the CBP Survivor Advocate, imploring a revamp of the Line of Duty Death determination criteria. However, this call to action was met with silence, underscoring the need for continued advocacy.
Even as we add the names of Border Patrol Inspector Orin F. Hush, Border Patrol Agent Daniel H. Salazar, and Border Patrol Agent Raul H. Gonzalez Jr. to our Honor Roll this year, let us also remember those whose sacrifice has not been officially recognized. This includes:
The current policy, which restricts recognition to a narrow set of circumstances, often leaves many fallen employees and their grieving families unrecognized. It's time to expand the definition of service-related death to include all duty-related accidents, illnesses, on-duty medical emergencies, and all deaths that are attributable to the employee's work. In cases of uncertainty, decisions should always favor the employee. This would represent a crucial step in CBP and the Patrol in affirming their commitment to honor every agent's and every office's sacrifice of service appropriately.
A Call for Change
The workforce deserves better. Through transparent communication, regular policy reviews, and persistent advocacy for the proposed changes, the Patrol can better value the workforce and ensure the sacrifices made by the fallen agents and their families are appropriately recognized.
Now, we must act. I urge you to join me in advocating for these necessary changes. Reach out to the CBP Survivor Advocate at email@example.com with your thoughts and concerns. Together, let us raise awareness and honor those who serve with the respect they deserve.
This Week's Highlights
This week we highlight a historic photo from the funeral of Agent Jason Panides in 2001. Our historic documents begin in 1914 with a memo about "Junior Inspectors". We have a 1924 memo recommending that the new Border Patrol employees be given the title "Inspectors". The short-lived two border district approach ended in 1933, and much more!
We remember retired Chief Patrol Agent Dan Harris Jr. on the anniversary of his Newton-Azrak Award action.
We remember Patrol Inspector Richard A. Lugo on the anniversary of his death.
Enjoy and have a great week!
P.S. - As an open and continuous invitation to current and former USBP employees, I am always accepting photos to post in the USBP Photo Galleries and in the Upholding Honor First pages. I sure would appreciate you visiting those pages and sending me anything that you think I could post (just send them to firstname.lastname@example.org). As always, make sure to explore all of the hyperlinks to the documents and pages. Finally, please forward this blog to whomever you think may enjoy it.
The workplace climate resulting from a combination of organizational pride and employee morale.
Esprit de corps is reinforced through the shared goals, mission and values of the organization and its employees.
The definition turns Esprit de Corps into a simple formula and defines parts that comprise organizational pride and employee morale.
Esprit de Corps = Organizational Pride + Employee Morale
Esprit de Corps is the key to a healthy organization and engaged employees.
Honor First is foundational to the Border Patrol's organizational pride and integral to its Esprit de Corps.
THROWBACK PHOTO OF THE WEEK
In this historic photograph from 2001, the Laredo Sector Honor Guard pays tribute to their fallen comrade, Jason Panides (1974-2001), in a solemn 21-gun salute. Seven members stand in unity, rifles aimed skyward, captured amidst their three volleys of fire. Their presence echoes the transformation of the USBP's tradition of honoring the fallen, a stark contrast to the quiet ceremony of their fellow agent, John "Charlie" Gigax (1972-1999), laid to rest in the same cemetery just a year and a half earlier.
What can't be seen is that the the tombstones of Jason and Charlie are a mere 100 feet apart. After the formal tribute to Jason, and upon realizing the proximity of Charlie's resting place, the Honor Guard reformed. In a heartfelt impromptu gesture, they extended their solemn rites to include Charlie, offering him and his family the formal ceremony they never had, complete with a flag folding, 21-gun salute, taps, and a rendition of Amazing Grace by the sector pipe band. The photo thus immortalizes a poignant moment of remembrance and respect, capturing the Honor Guard's commitment to their fallen brothers.
Follow this link to see examples of USBP employees Upholding Honor First.
Dan M. Harris Jr. - photo
Assistant Chief Patrol Agent
Assistant Chief Patrol Agent Dan M. Harris Jr. was recognized for demonstrating unusual courage during an extremely dangerous and stressful situation on May 17, 2007. Agent Harris was invited to Athens, Texas to be the guest speaker at the Henderson County Peace Officer Memorial Service. During the service, Henderson County Deputy David Harris received a call for emergency backup due to shots being fired at a domestic disturbance. Upon arrival, the deputies began receiving gunfire and tragically, two deputies were shot and killed and another deputy was wounded. Agent Harris exposed himself to extreme risk or loss of life in order to render aid to the wounded deputy. Also being a certified Emergency Medical Technician, he was able to stabilize the wound with the assistance of other deputies.
As of March 6, 2023 the U.S. Border Patrol has suffered 154* fallen.
The names that appear below hold a place of honor. They have made the ultimate sacrifice in an effort to fulfill the oath each officer took to protect and defend the United States of America.
The facts regarding each officer are presented without major editing of the "language of the day" found in the reports detailing the circumstances of each event. This is done to provide the reader an association with historical timeframes.
Employees who died in the line of duty due to being exposed to deadly illnesses will not have the cause of death listed.
I will note that Border Patrol Agent John Charles Gigax is not recognized as officially fallen by Customs and Border Protection or the U.S. Border Patrol. The Border Patrol Foundation and the Border Patrol Museum also fail to recognize him. He is remembered by all except organizations containing "Border Patrol" in their title. He is remembered by the:
The U.S. Border Patrol, the Border Patrol Foundation, and the Border Patrol Museum should fix their oversight.
HonorFirst.com remembers and lists Agent Gigax among the fallen.
Agent Gigax is buried in Florida's 5th Congressional District. I contacted Congressman John Rutherford for assistance in this case. Please contact the Congressman Rutherford if you would like to help.
Richard A. Lugo
Date of Birth: August 14, 1935
Entered on Duty: July 18, 1966
Title: Patrol Inspector (Trainee)
End of Watch: May 14, 1967
On May 14, 1967, Patrol Inspectors (Trainee) Richard A. Lugo and Bruce A. Plaskett were assigned to maintain sign cutting drag strips and to deliver tire drags to selected sites. They were enroute from their official station, Yuma, Arizona, to Andrade, California, traveling north on Levee Road at approximately 40 miles per hour. Without advance indication that anything was wrong, the right rear tire of the 1966 International Scout suddenly deflated, causing the rear end of the vehicle to swerve radically. Trainee Lugo lost control of the vehicle, which skidded and overturned. The vehicle came to rest on its left side with the top crushed in almost to the level of the body. Trainee Lugo was killed instantly, his head having been crushed when the vehicle overturned.
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Blog author, retired U.S. Border Patrol Assistant Chief and, current U.S. Border Patrol employee advocate.
Site founder and owner, former Supervisory Border Patrol Agent and retired Immigration Special Agent.
U.S. Border Patrol historian and retired Deputy Chief Patrol Agent.
I prefer that you leave comments. However, if you wish to contact me, please do so by emailing Cliff@HonorFirst.com.