BRACKETTVILLE, Texas — The Texas Military Service on Monday announced the death of a soldier involved in Operation Lone Star.
The agency said the soldier was injured in Brackettville, which is west of San Antonio in Kinney County, near the Mexico border. He was transported to a hospital in San Antonio.
The Texas Military Service said the incident was non-mission related but they did say the initial findings indicate it was an accidental firearm discharge.
Since then, the soldier has been identified as Texas Army National Guard Spc. Dajuan Lester Townes, 19, of Spring, Texas. He was an Army horizontal construction engineer, assigned to the 272nd Engineer Company, 386th Engineer Battalion.
Townes joined the Texas Army National Guard October of 2019. He graduated from the inaugural class of Grand Oaks High School in May of 2021. According to Conroe ISD, he signed with the National Guard during his junior year of high school, the first Grand Oaks student to sign with any branch of military. The district tells us school staff remember him as extremely respectful and easy to talk to.
"The Texas Military Department is working directly with the family to provide all support necessary," they said. "An investigation is ongoing by both the Texas Rangers and the Texas Military Department."
"We are deeply saddened by this loss," Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris, Adjutant General for Texas Military Service said. "We are focused on supporting the Soldier's family and providing all available resources."
Launched last spring, Operation Lone Star is the official name for Gov. Greg Abbott's latest crackdown on unlawful immigration and the smuggling of drugs in the border region. It's bolstered law enforcement's presence along the Texas-Mexico border, though it's also received criticism for confusing protocols, questions of constitutionality and concerns of reported pay discrepancies.
On Thursday, administrators of the Spring school district which Townes graduated from last May provided a statement remembering him as "extremely respectful and easy to talk to." Townes was the first student from Grand Oaks High School to enlist in any branch of the military.
The full statement from Conroe ISD can be seen below:
"DaJuan Lester Townes graduated with the inaugural Senior Class of 2021 from Grand Oaks High School on May 26, 2021. He signed with the National Guard during his Junior year of high school, making him the first student from Grand Oaks High School to sign with any military branch.
"Staff remember DaJuan being extremely respectful and easy to talk to. He always approached you with a smile no matter the situation. He had a good heart and quiet, but funny disposition that made people want to be around him. Although DaJuan had many challenges in his life, he worked hard to graduate from high school and enlist in the military.
"He internalized the GROWL (Growth Mindset, Respect, Ownership, Work Ethic, Leadership) characteristics of ownership and work ethic and shared with others his love for the military. He had many aspirations and believed enlisting in the military would afford him future opportunities in his life.
"His mother and staff were incredibly proud of him. His mom would tell the staff that he is one that will make a difference in life. The Grizzly Nation mourns the loss of one of our own so young, delightful, and full of promise."
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott also issued a statement following the soldier's death. It reads:
"Our hearts are heavy at the news of the tragic death of a Texas Guardsman stationed at the border as part of Operation Lone Star. We grieve for the soldier who died and lift their family and loved ones up in prayer. The Texas National Guard plays an important role in our efforts to keep communities safe and we are grateful for their courage and commitment.
"The Texas Rangers will conduct a thorough investigation into this tragedy and the Texas Military Department is taking action to ensure such loss of life never happens again."
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