Memorial hike honors Border Patrol agents

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Anza resident Ben Cruz organized a tribute hike to honor two U.S. Border Patrol agents murdered by marijuana smugglers in Anza in 1967. He led hikers to the location where agents Ted Newtown and George Azrak were killed. 

The Remembrance Hike: End of Watch 2020, was held Wednesday, June 17, beginning at the Veterans of Foreign War Post 1873 on Bailey Road in Anza. Participants drove into the hills above Terwilliger and continued on foot on a well-marked trail. 

Several members of the public, Border Patrol agents Tim Tucciarone, Roman Gulley and Justin J. Castrejon were in attendance for the trek into the scenic chaparral.

“The event was a tremendous success, and it was a moving experience,” Cruz said. “Prior to our event, my fiance Nicole Renee Arana and I arrived early to set up a (5-inch by 8-inch) flag and prepared the site.”

Participants hiked up the steady grade to the exact location, where June 17, 1967, Newton, 25, and Azrak, 22, who were assigned to a rural checkpoint in northern San Diego County, were kidnapped and murdered. 

As the tribute began, the flag was waving in the breeze as the national anthem was played via Bluetooth speaker. A simple and emotional ceremony ensued.

“It was a chilling moment, as we all saluted our nation’s flag on this sacred ground. It truly felt like agents Newton and Azrak were standing alongside us as the colors flew,” Cruz said.

He proceeded with his memorial speech, followed by a moment of silence. After his presentation, the group shared words about the occasion. The ceremony ended as Arana laid two bouquets of flowers at the marker. “Amazing Grace,” performed by Scottish bagpipes, echoed throughout the valley. 

“I am thankful for the efforts put forth by the community members in Anza, California in remembering fallen patrol inspectors Theodore Newton and George Azrak, who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to this country,” Aaron M. Heitke, senior chief patrol agent for the San Diego Sector, said. “We will never forget their sacrifice and honor their memory.” 

The event will be an annual pilgrimage, according to Cruz. 

“We vowed to return next year to once more honor these men,” he said.

To contact the U.S. Border Patrol San Diego Sector, follow them on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.