Texas Guardsman Drowns After Rescue Attempt During Border Mission

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Army National Guard Spc. Bishop Evans.
Spc. Bishop Evans, 22, field artilleryman, assigned to A Battery, 4-133 Field Artillery Regiment in New Braunfels, Texas. (Photo via Gov. Greg Abbott’s Twitter)

The body of a Texas Guardsman on the southern border mission who dove into the Rio Grande River to rescue drowning migrants was found Monday morning, the state's governor's office announced.

Spc. Bishop Evans, 22, was a field artilleryman, assigned to A Battery, 4-133 Field Artillery Regiment, in New Braunfels, Texas. He joined the National Guard in May 2019 and served in Kuwait and Iraq, according to his service record.

Evans went into the Rio Grande River near Eagle Pass, Texas, while attempting to rescue two drowning migrants. The two survived and are currently in custody, according to a statement from the Texas National Guard.

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The news of Evans' death comes after a statement from the Texas National Guard on Friday called early reports of the fatality "inaccurate."

The Rio Grande has become a major, and dangerous, crossing point for migrants. On Saturday, dive teams attempting to recover Evans' body were forced to halt their search due to the river's strong current.

Last month, two North Dakota National Guardsmen went into the river to save a drowning migrant with no incident. However, National Guard soldiers traditionally have no swimming or water rescue training. Commanders sent out an order over the weekend to troops in Texas that under no circumstances are they allowed in the river, according to a message reviewed by Military.com.

"None of our soldiers are to get in the river," the message to troops said. "None."

Evans was serving with the Texas Guard's mission on the U.S.-Mexico border, which has gone on for more than a year. That mission, part of Gov. Greg Abbott's key efforts to combat illegal migration into the state, has been plagued with numerous issues for Guardsmen, including alcohol abuse, reports of suicides and systemic problems with pay and benefits.

"Our National Guard soldiers risk their lives every day to serve and protect others and we are eternally grateful for the way Spc. Evans heroically served his state and country," Abbott said in a statement.

Editor's note: This story was updated to correct which state's Guardsmen performed a river rescue last month.

-- Steve Beynon can be reached at Steve.Beynon@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @StevenBeynon.

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