EL PASO, Texas — He may have returned to El Paso, but US Border Patrol Agent (BPA) Ken Greggs says he doesn’t feel like he ever truly came home from his harrowing 27-day deployment to Portland, Oregon.
“Every time I hear a leaf blower, it’s like I’m right back inside that courthouse,” Greggs said. “I still hear the drum circles when I close my eyes.”
Greggs, 23, enlisted in the US Border Patrol Tactical Unit, or BORTAC, after completing two years of service as a radio specialist in the Army.
“I never really got my shot at special forces in the Army. I wanted to show what I could do,” he said, absently toying with his riot baton. “But I never expected anything like this.”
Despite his struggle, Greggs still counts himself one of the lucky ones. “Not everyone made it out of there. This is ICE Agent Davis,” he said, holding up a photo. “Everyone called him Dumpster. He was MEDEVAC’d on day 15…he sprained his ankle when he fell off his tactical bicycle.”
Even the familiarity of his fellow BORTAC agents no longer provides any comfort.
“These other guys, who haven’t been there, they don’t get it. They haven’t seen what I’ve seen,” said Greggs, staring out the window of his apartment. “They haven’t watched a guy take a water bottle to the shoulder pad. They don’t know what it’s like to see your best buddy scrape his knee while wrestling an unarmed woman to the ground.”
Greggs’ future is, at best, uncertain, as he struggles to adjust to a peaceful life. “Every time I see a mom, nurse, or a middle-aged Navy veteran, I find myself reaching for my mace can, or looking for the nearest unmarked van. I can’t go near quirky coffee roasters or microbreweries anymore without the hair on the back of my neck standing up.”
His experience may have left him permanently changed. “Sometimes I think about going and joining up with the army of some totalitarian regime somewhere.”
“Just so I can feel normal again.”