President honors fallen Yuma agent
The Yuma U.S. Border Patrol agent who died in the line of duty in December was honored by President George Bush during a ceremony that honored officers who have died while protecting the nation's borders.
James Epling, 24, was also officially declared the first U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer to die in the line of duty since the agency's creation one year ago under the new Department of Homeland Security.
"We will never forget Agent Jimmy Epling, whose name is forever etched on the Customs and Border Protection Valor Memorial," said Robert Bonner, Customs and Border Protection commissioner, in a press release.
The Valor Memorial dedication took place on Tuesday in Washington D.C. to officially bring all past fallen border officers under the one-year-old U.S. Homeland Security flag.
Speaking at the ceremony, the president thanked the people working to secure the border and mentioned Epling's death and the family he left behind, which includes his wife Monica and their children.
"He risked his life to save a life," Bush said. "And on behalf of our nation, Monica and Seth and Shaine and Sean and James, and his loving parents, Ken and Amy, thank you for raising such a good son and thank you for having such a good husband; boys, you need to be proud of your daddy."
Epling drowned in the Colorado River on Dec. 16 while attempting to chase down four suspected illegal aliens. He had already helped save the life of an illegal alien from China.
The Valor Memorial was first established by the U.S. Customs Service in August of 1985 and included the names of 49 of its agents.
It has now been changed to include agents who died while serving the four agencies - the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Border Patrol, Customs and the Immigration and Naturalization Service - that were brought under the Customs and Border Protection flag when the Homeland Security was created one year ago in response to the Sept. 11 attacks.
The memorial displays the names of approximately 200 people from the four agencies and has only Epling's under the Customs and Border Protection heading.