CBP Honors its Own with Valor Memorial Ceremony
The sun was shining, but the mood was solemn at the Woodrow Wilson Plaza in Washington, D.C., on Thursday when hundreds of U.S. Customs and Border Protection personnel, families, and guests gathered to pay tribute to those who died in the line of duty and the loved ones they left behind.
CBP Acting Commissioner John P. Sanders, who presided over the Valor Memorial and Wreath Laying Ceremony, held annually to honor the agency’s fallen agents and officers, recognized those who served.
“Every day, our brave men and women work tirelessly, often in dangerous and difficult conditions, to protect our border and homeland. They serve with valor and integrity, often putting themselves in harm’s way in order to carry out our mission,” said Sanders.
Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Kevin K. McAleenan also expressed his appreciation. “I am continually humbled and overwhelmed by the commitment and sacrifice of our agents and officers, and the incredible attitude and optimism that they bring to all that they do. There is no expression of gratitude that can equal the sacrifices that we honor today.”
“Since CBP was created, 40 enforcement professionals have died in the line of duty in 15 years—34 Border Patrol agents, three CBP officers, two air interdiction agents, and one intelligence collection operations manager. The men and women who we have lost represent the very, very best of us. They were truly extraordinary people, and it makes our efforts to search for a reason that much harder,” said McAleenan. “Why do we lose such incredible people? Fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, sons and daughters. There are simply no good answers that I’ve found. But what I do know is that they serve as powerful examples to try to live up to. They inspire us to recommit to our mission and our service and to work harder every day to take care of each other and our extended CBP family.”
This year, one name was added to the CBP Valor Memorial, a monument that lists the names of all of the men and women of CBP and its legacy agencies who gave their lives while serving the country. “Each individual whose name is engraved on CBP’s Valor Memorial personifies heroism,” said McAleenan.
At this year’s ceremony, CBP Intelligence Collections Operations Manager Christopher T. Bacon was honored. Bacon, 51, died as a result of injuries received in a motor vehicle accident on June 7, 2018, near Grand Forks, North Dakota. He was en route to CBP’s National Air Security Operations Center, driving his assigned government-owned vehicle.
Bacon served his country in many ways during his 31 year career. A veteran of the U.S. Army, he entered on duty with the U.S. Border Patrol in December 1995, as a member of the 296th session of the Border Patrol Academy. He was initially assigned to the Brownfield Border Patrol Station in San Diego Sector, where he excelled and was selected for assignments in two specialty units—the Sensor Crew, which places and maintains intrusion detection equipment to track movement in the field, and the All-Terrain Vehicle Unit that conducts patrols in remote, rugged areas along the border.
In August 2002, Bacon transferred to the Grand Forks Sector in North Dakota, and was promoted to the position of Lead Border Patrol Agent. In June 2007, he transitioned to CBP’s Air and Marine Operations as an air enforcement specialist assigned to the Grand Forks Air Branch. In this position, Bacon would fly with pilots to look for indications of illegal crossings to alert Border Patrol agents on the ground. In August 2008, Bacon transitioned to CBP’s Office of Intelligence and was promoted to the position of intelligence collections operations manager. He was assigned to the CBP National Air Security Operations Center and worked with local, state, federal, and tribal law enforcement entities in the region to gather information and share it internally to assist with CBP investigations.
“I never met Chris, but I feel that I’ve come to know him as we’ve prepared his family, friends, and colleagues to participate in the CBP Valor Memorial. Like many in the law enforcement profession, he embraced the role of both provider for his family and protector of his community,” said CBP Survivor Advocate James Cox, a U.S. Border Patrol assistant chief. “The accomplishments of his children and their presence at the ceremony today gives testament to the role he enjoyed most—that of a father.” Bacon was survived by his wife Rhonda and four children—Kristen, Bobby, Jake, and Jasmine; his parents, Spencer Bacon and Cheri Plaza; and his sister, Jacquelin Callaway.
Some of the highlights of the ceremony included the CBP Honor Guard’s presentation of colors, a ceremonial march led by CBP’s Pipes and Drums, the folding of the flag and the laying of the wreath. As part of the wreath laying ceremony, those officiating placed a single white rose into the wreath as an expression of remembrance.
Arrisia Sims, a CBP agriculture specialist at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, sang the national anthem. Other performers included U.S. Border Patrol Agent Howard W. Craig who played a bagpipe solo during the procession, and Bobby Taylor from Air and Marine Operations and Elias Rodriguez from the Office of Field Operations who performed Echo Taps. The ceremony also included the unveiling of the Valor Memorial panel with Christopher Bacon’s name added to the inscriptions and a roll call where the names of all 247 fallen agents and officers of CBP and its legacy agencies were read.
Members of CBP’s voluntary Peer Support and Chaplaincy Programs, who help CBP families in crisis, were paired with surviving families attending the event. “We do this because we care. Our brothers and sisters at CBP have made the ultimate sacrifice. They have given their lives to help protect the country and we honor them,” said Lionel Flores, the national peer support coordinator of the U.S. Border Patrol.
This year 44 surviving family members attended the event. One family returned to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the loss of their relative, U.S. Border Patrol Agent Cruz C. McGuire. Agent McGuire, who was assigned to the Del Rio, Texas station, collapsed from a fatal heart attack on May 21, 2009, at the age of 47, while tracking a group of illegal immigrants by foot. Agent McGuire served 25 years in the U.S. Border Patrol.
“My brother was a phenomenal agent. The Border Patrol was his life. He loved what he did and was the epitome of dedication,” said Scott McGuire, Agent McGuire’s brother. “He is greatly missed and we thought this would be a great way to remember him.”
McGuire was among 10 members of his family who traveled from Texas, Oklahoma, and Maryland to honor his brother. “Over the last 10 years, CBP and the Border Patrol have maintained an amazing connection with us. They have constantly been in touch to see how we are and even now have assigned an agent to travel with us. We did not expect that,” said McGuire, who has another brother who is currently a Border Patrol agent assigned to the Del Rio, Texas station, and his father is a retired, 28-year veteran of the legacy U.S. Customs Service.
Also attending this year’s Valor Memorial ceremony to honor his dad, Cruz P. McGuire is hoping to carry on his family’s dedication to service. McGuire, a Navy veteran, recently applied to become a Border Patrol agent. “If I do get accepted, I will be very proud to follow in my dad’s footsteps,” said McGuire. “I am very proud of my dad. He was an amazing man.”
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 official ports of entry. CBP is charged with securing the borders of the United States while enforcing hundreds of laws and facilitating lawful trade and travel.