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‘A Fifth Texas National Guardsman [Died by] Suicide After Being Ordered by Greg Abbott to Patrol Migrants’

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"A fifth Texas national guardsman has [died by] suicide after being ordered by Greg Abbott to patrol migrants."

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On October 5 2022, an Imgur user shared a screenshot of a tweet claiming that a “fifth Texas National Guardsman” had died by suicide after being “ordered by [Texas Governor] Greg Abbott to patrol migrants”:

A second portion of the tweet referenced a “political stunt” costing $4 billion, and addressed the November 2022 midterm elections:

The political stunt has cost $4 BILLION in taxpayers’ money and has left 10 Texas Guard members dead. Gregg Abbott must lose his job in November [2022].

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In a threaded tweet, Arellano linked to a Texas Tribune article, adding:

The death would be the first suspected suicide linked to Operation Lone Star since December of last year [2021] and the fifth suspected suicide overall.

The linked article referenced Operation Lone Star, which was described in a separate March 30 2022 explainer article, also from the Texas Tribune:

When Abbott first announced Operation Lone Star, 500 Texas National Guardmembers were sent to the border, and HB 9 funded a deployment of an additional 1,800 soldiers in September 2021. Later that month, Abbott directed 1,000 DPS personnel and 400 more Texas National Guard members to the border in response to the sudden arrival of 16,000 migrants in Del Rio.

The operation was massively upscaled in November 2021, sending up to 10,000 National Guard members to the border.

The National Guard members are tasked with aiding arrests for border-related crimes, including drug smuggling and human trafficking. However, in a leaked morale survey from January 2022, some said they’re not doing much of anything. Earlier in 2022, about 30 soldiers were dispatched to guard private ranches that already have security as part of Operation Lone Star, which raised questions about how and why the Texas National Guard is being used at the border.

Still another investigation pointed out that Texas officials had misled the public about the scope of the operation at least seven times.

A January 4 2022 Army Times article, “Another Operation Lone Star soldier dies amid morale crisis,” began by describing a recent suicide attempt as well as an accidental discharge death, noting that soldiers were stationed “via long-term unity-wide involuntary activations”:

A Texas National Guard soldier assigned to the state’s mission at its border with Mexico, dubbed Operation Lone Star, accidentally shot and killed himself in an alcohol-related incident Saturday [January 1 2022] and another survived a suicide attempt during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day [in December 2021], according to initial incident reports obtained by Army Times.

The morale crisis among troops at the border, many of whom are there via long-term unit-wide involuntary activations, led Joint Task Force Lone Star’s chaplains to initiate a force-wide “morale survey” Monday [January 3 2022]. Army Times previously reported a series of suicide deaths linked to the mission, whose soldiers are suffering from issues with living conditions and pay.

Approximately 10,000 members of the Texas National Guard and Texas State Guard, an official state militia, are either on the border or supporting the effort from other locations in the state, according to a November [2021] operations order obtained by Army Times.

The Army Times’ coverage was published very shortly after their bleakly headlined December 23 2021 report, “Wave of suicides hits Texas National Guard’s border mission,” with the subheader, “Four soldiers have taken their own lives in two months.” In the article, the outlet mentioned one soldier whose “time ran out on his temporary hardship waiver”:

[Pfc. Joshua R.] Cortez and three other soldiers tied to Operation Lone Star have died by suspected suicide in the past two months [between October and December 2021], according to family members, Guard troops currently on the mission and official documents obtained by Army Times.

• Sgt. Jose L. De Hoyos was found dead in Laredo, Texas, on Oct. 26 [2021]. He was a member of the 949th Brigade Support Battalion’s headquarters company.
• Cortez died overnight Nov. 6. [2021]
• 1st Sgt. John “Kenny” Crutcher died Nov. 12 [2021], as time ran out on his temporary hardship waiver. He was the top NCO for B Company, 3rd Battalion, 144th Infantry.
• 1st Lt. Charles Williams, a platoon leader in Crutcher’s company, died at home overnight Dec. 17 [2021] while on [leave].

As such, Arellano’s tweet reflected ongoing news about the impact of Operation Lone Star on troops. As of December 2021, Army Times had documented four deaths by suicide among soldiers assigned to the effort, between October 26 and December 17 2021, and the article described the effects of involuntary, indefinite deployment on Cortez:

Pfc. Joshua R. Cortez was preparing to accept a “lifetime job” with one of the nation’s biggest health insurance companies in late October [2021]. But the Texas National Guard had other ideas. The state’s mission to guard its border with Mexico, known as Operation Lone Star, was rapidly expanding and that meant involuntary activations were necessary to meet Gov. Greg Abbott’s troop quotas.

Cortez was one of the soldiers tapped to go on state active duty orders — with no idea how long the mission would last.

Arellano’s tweet indicated a “fifth” Texas national guardsman had died by suicide; Army Times described four deaths by suicide linked to Operation Lone Star as of December 2021. Arellano linked to an October 4 2022 Texas Tribune article, “Another National Guard soldier working Operation Lone Star dies by suspected suicide,” reporting that the Texas governor had “confirmed the soldier’s cause of death” as suicide:

A service member assigned to the Texas National Guard’s border security mission, Operation Lone Star, died by a self-inflicted gunshot with his duty weapon Tuesday morning [October 4 2022] in Eagle Pass, according to an official document obtained by Army Times and The Texas Tribune.

According to the document, the shooting was around 8:20 a.m. The Texas Military Department confirmed the death and said it is withholding the soldier’s name until their family is notified.

“We are deeply saddened to have lost one of our own today,” Maj. Gen. Thomas Suelzer, the department’s top leader, said in a statement [on October 4 2022]. “We extend our deepest condolences to the family.”

[…]

In a statement, Gov. Greg Abbott confirmed the soldier’s cause of death and asked Texans to pray for the soldier’s family.

An October 5 2022 Imgur post featured a tweet by Antonio Arellano from the prior day. Arellano stated that a “fifth Texas national guardsman [died by] suicide after being ordered by Greg Abbott to patrol migrants.” The Army Times, along with other organizations, had published several articles about the matter of suicides linked to Operation Lone Star in late 2021 and in 2022, finding there had been four known deaths by suicide between late October and mid-December 2021. The Texas Tribune reported that a fifth soldier died by suicide in October 2022, bringing the total to five soldiers linked to the mission so far.