Inez Vasquez recalls the day she first noticed her husband, Freddie, a 19-year Border Patrol K-9 handler, started feeling sick.
It was the day before Valentine’s Day, 2021.
(Video: Fox News Digital)
On Feb. 12, Freddie found himself in the small town of Anthony, Texas, just to the north of El Paso. Four illegal migrants had hopped the border and were stopped in a car by the local cops.
Migrants had been flooding across the border with Mexico in unprecedented numbers, so the call wasn’t out of the ordinary. The conditions, however, were. The second wave of COVID-19 was spreading like wildfire.
By the 13th, Freddie was starting to feel sick, and on the next day — a day that should have been spent romancing his wife — he drove himself to an urgent care, where rapid tests for COVID and the flu came back negative.
His health continued to deteriorate, and he was soon admitted to the hospital.
A week later, now with a positive COVID test, Freddie was put on a ventilator.
Pneumonia would set in, and within three months, Freddie would die on May 8, making him one of at least 63 Customs and Border Protection (CPB) employees to succumb to the illness.
“Seeing him wasting away — that was just heart-wrenching,” Inez told Fox News Digital. “Prior to all this, he was a person who was very full of life. He was a people person, very social. This man never met a stranger, honestly. He was somebody who could strike up a conversation with anybody anywhere.”
The grieving widow has nothing but love and respect for all law enforcement officers, not just those who serve at the border.
“Even with a very real threat of COVID, they did not back down,” she said. “It takes a very special person, and not just Border Patrol. But I think, in general, any law enforcement officer who puts on that uniform, and every time they wear that uniform and go out there, they are the people that run towards danger while the rest of us are running away looking for safety.”
Freddie was considered a hero by those who knew him, after, in two separate incidents a month apart, he successfully pulled two drowning people from the American Canal, which flows near downtown El Paso alongside the Rio Grande.
“Even [during] COVID, he was in very close contact with these people,” Inez said. “He knew the risk, and we knew that that was a possibility. But, again, if my husband had the opportunity to do this all over again, I know he wouldn’t change a thing.”
Today, we will lay to rest our friend and brother, Border Patrol Agent Freddie Vasquez. We will never forget the impact you have made on our lives, and we will honor your legacy always. We will miss you Freddie. Honor First.@CBP @CBPWestTexas pic.twitter.com/MZrkan8yoc
— Peter Jaquez (@USBPChiefEPT) May 19, 2021
As the CBP commissioner and an executive panel found that Freddie contracted the virus that ultimately killed him from migrants while on duty, he was considered to have died in the line of duty. That determination allowed Inez to receive survivor benefits equal to 45% of Freddie’s salary. Each of the couple’s two children, just 8 and 10 when their father passed, was entitled to 15% of his salary.
“At the very least, I thought, OK, I was given financial peace of mind through that,” Inez said.
But what little peace the benefits brought would soon fade when, in early 2022, she discovered that, under President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan — signed into law in March 2021 — survivor benefits for the families of federal employees who died from COVID will end on Sept. 30, 2030.
“Now this peace of mind has been ripped away,” she said. “We find ourselves trying to fight to keep our benefits like any other surviving spouse who lost their spouse in the line of duty.”
“Inez can start drawing from Freddie’s retirement in 2030,” Fox News Digital reports, “but her husband was in his early 40s when he died, and their children won’t be financially independent by the time the benefits expire.”
It’s an “injustice” Inez is certain Freddie would want her to battle.
“He was a very dedicated agent. He gave his life ultimately for this country,” she said. “But it’s an injustice what’s happening to us at this point, and I know that he would want me to fight for this.”
Republished with permission from American Wire News Service
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