Seventeen years ago, one of Cadillac’s best and brightest former students was shot and killed at the border as members of a Mexican drug cartel tried to escape into this country after committing several murders.
Kristopher Eggle was shot three times. The murder became national news.
In 2002, the media wasn’t focused on the border. But when the 28-year-old University of Michigan graduate was killed in the line of duty as a National Park ranger, it stirred debate about the violence along our southern borders.
The victim’s parents, Bob and Bonnie Eggle, a Vietnam veteran and an elementary school teacher, were devastated. But Cadillac wrapped them in an outpouring of love, as did the nation’s law enforcement personnel and military veterans.
Now, the heated conversation about the wall stirs up the pain, the loss and grief they’ve been trying to keep at bay. And the continued sympathy and love they receive now includes derision for their pleas for more border protection.
Bonnie Eggle wouldn’t have chosen political activism as a retirement pastime
But now her Facebook page, the one she started to stay in touch with friends and former Kenwood Elementary students, is a string of posts featuring murder victims and mug shots of fugitives.
Life took a sharp turn for the Eggles when their son was murdered. Kris, a wildlife biology major, was a park ranger who loved the outdoors and interacting with visitors. But in Arizona, he also helped guard a 30-mile stretch of the U.S. border with Mexico in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, where he intercepted thousands of pounds of illegal drugs.
Every year during their visits, Bob helped Kris repair border fences, four strings of barbed wire attached to fence posts.
“We knew he was in danger,‘ Bonnie said, after Kris had shared stories of his narrow escapes.
In February 2002, six months before his death, Bob went with his son on a night patrol in the park. Before they left, Kris gave his dad weapons and night vision goggles.
“He wanted to show me what he was facing,‘ Bob said. “It was surreal that so many years after Vietnam, I was geared up for combat operations within our country; it was very much a low-intensity war zone.‘
Bob’s black eye patch is a dramatic reminder of how he lost his eye. The University of Michigan graduate was a platoon leader in Vietnam. On May 19, 1969, he was shot in the side of the face during a maneuver. He spent 19 months in Walter Reed Hospital and had nine surgeries to rebuild his face.
But after this “dark‘ period, he met Bonnie and “life became like a Hallmark movie,‘ and then darkness returned.
“After Kris’s death, we felt we needed to do something and not sit home and cry and be angry,‘ Bonnie said. “We had to keep moving forward. Kris would have wanted that.‘
The couple decided to give their son’s death meaning by raising awareness about the need for increased border security. Maybe they could save lives. They made their case on shows like “Phil Donahue,‘ “Bill O’Reilly‘ and “Hannity and Colmes.‘ They appeared before a congressional committee, where politicians on both sides made promises.
When nothing changed, they grew frustrated and Bob switched tactics per his military training to Continue Mission, CM. He began using his military expertise to train park rangers for the realities of border duty.
“I went back to Organ Pipe to help with federal law enforcement training,‘ Bob said. “I was using my military experience. This was better than wasting my time with politics.‘
Bob’s advanced military training included Army Ranger Airborne and Army Special Operations. In Vietnam he was a platoon leader for the Big Red One, the 1st Infantry Division.
Bob has also been instrumental in getting support for the new training offered by the Department of Interior, a refresher course for mid-career officers that will make them better able to handle combat.
For his efforts, Eggle was honored last May in Washington, D.C., by the Department of Interior for working tirelessly to promote officer training and call attention to border violence issues.
“I thought I left the (battlefields) when I left the jungles of Vietnam, and now it’s right here in the states, and too many people don’t face up to it. They talk it down and say it’s artificial.‘
The family, including the Eggle’s daughter and Kris’s sister, Jennifer, still struggle for peace of mind.
“The anguish never really goes away, and now it’s brought to the surface again when you have all of this controversy about the wall,‘ Bonnie said. “We were promised when he was killed that they were going to do it. We’ve just had it. So I thought, I need to put the (illegal immigration) website statistics out there to show people that these things are happening. How else can I get these messages out there?‘
“This is hard on my parents,‘ said Jennifer, who works for the National Park Service at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. “But in some ways, the talks about the wall, it dredges it all up again. It’s good. It is a valid issue and it reminds a lot of people that knew Kris that this hasn’t changed.‘
“What is the purpose of Kris being murdered if nothing is going to done?‘ pleaded Bonnie. “Could his death at least bring some resolution to America and make this a safer place?‘