‘He enjoyed life’: Border Patrol agent who died in helicopter crash remembered by family

dfwnewsa | March 14, 2024 | 0 | East Texas News , South Texas News

‘He enjoyed life’: Border Patrol agent who died in helicopter crash remembered by family
A photo is seen on a large screen of U.S. Border Patrol agent Christopher Luna during the city of Edinburg’s candlelight memorial to honor the fallen heroes of Friday’s helicopter crash, at the Edinburg Amphitheater on Monday, March 11, 2024, in Edinburg. (Delcia Lopez | dlopez@themonitor.com)

SAN JUAN — Dozens of Border Patrol agents and representatives from local law enforcement agencies lined the main walkway leading to the Basilica Of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine Thursday afternoon.

At roughly a quarter to 2 p.m., they were all called to attention, saluting the flag-draped casket carrying Border Patrol agent Christopher Luna’s body as it was slowly escorted toward the large church.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas stood at attention with his hand over his heart as the casket made its way inside the basilica, followed by Luna’s family and a long stream of green uniformed Border Patrol agents.

An organist played and sang “Amazing Grace” as a long line of law enforcement representatives slowly made their way into the church.

Luna, who served with the Border Patrol since 2007, was killed on Friday, March 8, in a helicopter crash in La Grulla along with Chief Warrant Officer 2 Casey Frankoski, 28, and Chief Warrant Officer 2 John Grassia, 30, of the New York National Guard. Luna was 51 years old.

He is remembered by his family as someone who enjoyed life with his wife, Esmeralda, and their two children, Sarah Isabelle and Hayden Christopher. His father and stepmother remember him as an adventure seeker.

“He was one of the most wonderful sons you would ever want to have,” his father, Victor, said. “He was a quick learner, very polite, and he had numerous friends that always talked very highly of him. He was very respectful to people, to both me and his stepmother. He was a very loving father.”

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“He enjoyed life, whatever he did,” Luna’s stepmother, San Juanita, said, recalling the young man who would come home with bruises from amateur bull riding. “He always lived on Advil.”

Luna was born on Feb. 7, 1973 to Victor Manuel Luna and Josie Lopez. He grew up in rural Edinburg off of North Depot Road.

“It was like farmland, so his passion was riding a three-wheeler that my husband got him,” San Juanita recalled. “He rode that all over the farm.”

She also recalled his love for basketball during his high school days at Edinburg High School. After he graduated in 1991 and attended the University of Texas–Pan American (UTPA) while working at Tandy’s Farm & Ranch Mart.

After graduating from UTPA with a degree in criminal justice, he worked at the university for a few years before following in his father’s footsteps and joining Border Patrol.

“We talked about it, and I told him, ‘Son, this is not a go to work, work eight hours, and go home job,’” Victor recalled. “‘There’s a lot of danger involved, so you need to decide if you can handle that kind of pressure. Then you have my blessing.’”

Victor and San Juanita are both retired Border Patrol agents. Like his father, Luna was stationed in Rio Grande City.

“He loved it over there,” San Juanita said.

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She remembered him as someone who was very compassionate, thoughtful, and respectful

“He was very respectful of his dad,” she added. “I think that’s why he joined the Border Patrol, because that’s something his dad did. It’s something he always wanted to do, which is why he was taking criminal justice.”

She said that he was proud to serve with the Border Patrol and took pride in having the opportunity to wear the green uniform.

“He loved working with the brush crew,” his father recalled. “He worked up north in the Starr County area in the ranches looking for high volume of people moving through the ranches.”

U.S. Border Patrol agents stand at attention alongside U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, right, at the Basilica of Our Lady San Juan Del Valle National Shrine Thursday, March 14, 2024, in San Juan. (Delcia Lopez | dlopez@themonitor.com)

Luna was able to share his passion for ATVs as a Border Patrol agent, working as an instructor for the ATV patrol.

“It was always an honor to tell my other workmates that I have a son stationed in Rio Grande City,” Victor said. “I was always really proud.”

Victor said that his son had only recently begun working with the air operations roughly seven months ago, operating the flare cameras on the helicopters.

“He enjoyed it,” Victor recalled.

“I did advise him that he was going to be flying with different agencies, the military especially,” he recalled. “He said, ‘No Dad, I can handle it. I can handle it.’”

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During the funeral Mass Thursday, Auxiliary Bishop Mario Avilés offered words of comfort as he addressed Luna’s family, friends and fellow Border Patrol agents.

“The closest experience to death that we can have is when someone that we love and care for goes to the Lord,” Avilés said during the homily. “There are many questions. It’s OK to have questions. It’s OK to feel pain, to feel angry.”

Just before he finished, Avilés offered prayers for the two National Guard soldiers who died with Luna, as well as the National Guard soldier who remains hospitalized as a result of the crash.

“In this Mass, we also pray for Casey and John,” Avilés said. “May the Lord give them eternal life.”

To see more, view staff photographer Delcia Lopez’s full photo gallery here:

Photo Gallery: Funeral Mass held in San Juan for Border Patrol agent killed in helicopter crash

The post ‘He enjoyed life’: Border Patrol agent who died in helicopter crash remembered by family appeared first on MyRGV.com.

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