CBP Honors its Own With Valor Memorial Ceremony
Three names added to U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Valor Memorial. Three lives lost while defending their country and communities. Three families to grieve the losses. And one CBP family to embrace the families left behind.
“You’re incredible people,” said CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan during the ceremony Wednesday at CBP’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. “Your strength, your perseverance, your forgiveness, and your purpose are truly an inspiration. The ceremony is for you and your loved ones’ CBP family, who grieves and remembers alongside you.”
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen echoed those sentiments, telling the family members of the fallen, as well as the entire CBP family, the memorial serves as an important reminder of the difficulty and danger all CBP agents and officers face every day.
“We lay a wreath in memory of those who put on a badge, went to work, and never came home again. We take a brief moment to say, ‘Thank you, and I miss you,’” she said, adding her particular appreciation to the families who recently lost loved ones. “Thank you for sharing your sons, your fathers, your brothers, your fiancés, your friends with us. CBP is a family, and you will always be a part of it.”
The ceremony included a reading of the names of all agents and officers of CBP and its legacy services from the earliest days of the United States, who lost their lives since the founding of the nation. The ceremony honored Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Lawrence Pierce, who was killed while trying to break up a fight August 17, 1995, in Chula Vista, California; Border Patrol Agent Isaac Morales, who was killed from injuries after an off-duty incident May 20, in El Paso, Texas, as he confronted an assailant with a knife; and Border Patrol Agent Rogelio Martinez, who died from injuries from a Nov. 19 incident still under investigation in the Big Bend Sector area of operation along the West Texas border with Mexico.
While Commissioner McAleenan spoke of each of the officers’ professional backgrounds and duties, he also noted their personal lives.
Pierce was an avid football fan, closely following the NFL draft each year, voraciously consuming every bit of analysts’ information he could get, along with his own notes about the coming prospects. “I imagine he would really love the multi-day spectacle of the NFL draft today,” said the Commissioner with a smile.
Morales, a nine-year veteran of the Border Patrol, loved horses, and dreamed of buying land and starting a ranch one day. Commissioner McAleenan also noted Morales’ appreciation of the simple pleasures of home. “On weekends, one could often find him manning the grill, hosting barbecues for family and friends,” he said.
Commissioner McAleenan talked of Martinez’s family, especially his young son, Sergio, who was nicknamed, “Perico” – which means “Parrot” – “because his little boy talked early … and often!” He added 12-year-old Sergio will always remember the last time he saw his father, as the agent hugged him and told him he loved him as he left home for work, from which he would never return.
Commissioner McAleenan said all three Border Patrol agents are heroes. “I’ve just described three remarkable men, who died in the line of duty, protecting us all,” he said.
The ceremony concluded with the playing of taps, a retiring of the colors, and a performance by CBP’s Pipes and Drums Honor Guard Drill Team. Just before the conclusion, Commissioner McAleenan reiterated his belief that the Valor Memorial and the names etched into it will honor the memory of those lost and the loved ones left behind.
“Each of these names is that of a patriot whose dedication to protecting our nation continues to inspire all of us who follow,” he said. “We will forever be grateful for their selflessness, heroism and courage. They will never be forgotten.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.