A Texas National Guard soldier assigned to Operation Lone Star, the state’s controversial mission at the U.S.-Mexico border, died Thursday of a pulmonary blood clot, according to a source familiar with the incident and documents obtained by Army Times.
The soldier collapsed at his unit’s hotel in McAllen, Texas, late Thursday afternoon after appearing dazed and telling another soldier he couldn’t see, according to the documents and source. The service member was transported to a local hospital, where medical staff pronounced him dead after attempting to resuscitate him.
Army Times is withholding the soldier’s identity until 24 hours after his family is notified.
Doctors at the hospital attributed his death to a blood clot, though the incident occurred shortly after he’d completed a shift at a security point along the border. The temperature in McAllen peaked at 99 degrees Fahrenheit on Thursday amid a state-wide heat wave.
A Texas Military Department spokesperson confirmed to Army Times that a soldier died Thursday in a “non-mission related incident.” The brief statement did not offer details on the incident, but said the soldier’s “cause of death is under investigation.”
The unnamed soldier is the eighth Texas Guard member linked to Operation Lone Star to die since Gov. Greg Abbott massively expanded the operation last fall with thousands of involuntary call-ups. Approximately 6,500 members were along the border as of April. That same month, Abbott had to seek an extra $495.3 million from the state legislature to continue the mission.
Four members who were either assigned to the border or identified to deploy there died by suicide between October and December of last year, an Army Times investigation found.
And in April, then-Spc. Bishop Evans drowned while trying to save two migrants who were drowning in the Rio Grande near Eagle Pass. Evans, who was posthumously promoted to sergeant, did not have a flotation device due to the mission’s long-standing problems with obtaining and issuing proper equipment to the troops, according to a joint investigation by Army Times and The Texas Tribune.
During the course of the mission, three current or former Texas Guard generals have abruptly departed the agency.
Davis Winkie covers the Army for Military Times. He studied history at Vanderbilt and UNC-Chapel Hill, and served five years in the Army Guard. His investigations earned the Society of Professional Journalists' 2023 Sunshine Award and consecutive Military Reporters and Editors honors, among others. Davis was also a 2022 Livingston Awards finalist.