This piece represents the views of the author and not U.S. Customs and Border Protection or the Department of Homeland Security
It’s shortly after two in the morning when the Border Patrol agent stops inside the garage. The agent can’t go into the house just yet. Home is a sacred sanctity. A place that must be protected at all cost.
The agent closes the garage door trying to forget the rough night at work. Peace and tranquility is just beyond that first door into the house. The people that mean the world and must not be affected by anything encountered at work. The ones that make up the fuel which burns within the agent’s heart, the agent’s soul, the agent’s entire being.
They are the ones who make the agent want to be a better person, a stronger individual. A person who can withstand all the horrible acts encountered at work and yet gentle enough when shielding the loved ones at home. Is that possible? It must be. It has to be.
The uniform might have ticks lingering throughout because of the area that was worked that night. Having to lay in high brush for hours waiting on the drug smugglers to make their illegal entry may seem easy enough – it’s not.
The uniform may be doused in bacteria because of the hundreds of individuals that were encountered this night with flu, chicken pox and countless other illnesses that should not make their way into this house. The uniform must be removed out there. It cannot make it into the house, not yet.
For our agents, their immediate world, their surroundings must be made right. The surroundings at work must not be the same at home. They must be the exact opposite. Everything must be in its place and yet both worlds must be separate from one another. A delicate balance that must keep family life separate from work and vice versa.
How do our agents accomplish this? How does one shield a daughter from the stories of rape being heard at work daily? How does one shield a son from the constant arrests of sex offenders and drug smugglers that are trying their best to enter illegally and hide within our own communities? The visual and memory of the dead body found tonight must be shaken off and forgotten for the time being. At least for a few hours. That’s all the agent wants – peace for a few hours.
Should they keep those stories at bay or bring them home to teach the kids of all the bad things that exist in the world? Is that decision made alone?
The simple answer is, ‘No.’
This agent has a partner that helps with these decisions. A life partner that has ensured everything at home is taken care of while the agent is out in the field honoring the oath that was taken to protect America, to protect our communities, to protect every other man and woman in green and, more importantly, to protect the loved ones inside this house.
The agent’s wife/husband is in my mind quite possibly the strongest person in the world.
This person carries the weight of the world while the Border Patrol agent is out risking it all. This individual ensures there’s a safe haven waiting for the agent at the end of shift. This person takes care of all the loved ones while the agent takes care of the country.
This person spends countless hours praying that the agent makes it home safe and unharmed. The responsibility of letting the kids know that dad or mom will be there in the morning or later that day lays solely on the shoulders of the agent’s wife/husband.
Reassuring them that mommy/daddy loves them every single day can be daunting at times. The birthdays missed, the absence during the holidays, sports events, dancing recitals, and family gatherings can all be tough to push through for the children, and yet the agent’s wife/husband prevails.
To see the heartache in their kids’ eyes as they are told that mommy/daddy won’t be present for this event is enough to make anyone break down. The agent’s wife/husband cannot allow this; they can’t afford to.
They know all must be well even without mommy’s/daddy’s presence. The child must be made to understand that the agent does not have a regular job where nights and weekends are always free to do as they please. That mommy’s/daddy’s sacrifice is great yet very important.
This is an extremely overwhelming task and the agent’s partner continues to pull through with it no matter what. They, too, have unknowingly taken the same oath with the agent.
They have vowed to handle the homefront while the agent is out in search of evil people that wish to do us harm. They might not have known this at first, or maybe they did, but that doesn’t matter because they accomplish the impossible every single day and night.
The vows taken come with a badge that demands the agent be shared with an entire country and not just their family. A promise made to the community at large.
As an agent, as a husband and father, I can attest to their strength.
My partners and I would not be able to handle both worlds by ourselves. We need our wives/husbands to help us out with the most precious parts of our lives. They are what makes us strong. They are what keeps us going. They are our core, our essence and the very foundation that allows us to face darkness every day and every night.
So as we kiss our kids and tell them to be good, it’s important for our wife/husband to know that we understand their duty day has not ended. We know there’s more to do as we walk out that front door. We know you have a tough job and that you may feel unappreciated at times.
Please know that we do appreciate you and understand that your task may even be tougher than ours. Please know that the badge we wear lays over our hearts – you are that beating heart. That heart that shields our loving home, our kids and all that is dear to us. In essence, the badge is a shield that protects you – our most precious gift in life.
So as the uniform is once again left inside the garage, kids checked one last time and the house secured, the agent’s wife/husband asks, “How did it go, honey?”
The agent ponders on this question as the numbers on the clock indicate it’s now 3 in the morning.
Should the agent address being shot at tonight or the recovered bodies of a mother and her child that had been left behind by the ruthless smugglers?
No… that can wait.
“It went well, love. No surprises. All the usual stuff. Get some sleep.”
And as the agent places that gentle kiss on the wife’s/husband’s cheek, a final thought runs through the agent’s mind: one final duty to perform. “Get some rest, love. Our house and kids are secure. I’ve got watch now.”
For your love. For your strength. For your compassion and patience. For allowing us to be the agents we must be. We say thank you and we love you all so very much.