A park bench at a new playground in Campo was named in honor of Border Patrol Agent Robert Rosas, who was murdered nearby at the border on July 23, 2009 by Mexican drug cartel hit men.
A ribbon cutting ceremony in November 2010 was attended by San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob as well as Border Patrol and other local officials to open the playground and dedicate two of the benches to local fallen heroes.
The other memorial bench was dedicated to local firefighter Matt Will, who died fighting a brush fire in Northern California several years ago.
Although Agent Rosas lived in El Centro, he died in the line of duty while protecting the residents of Campo, 40 miles east of San Diego. Local residents Nancy and William Slaff led the effort to get the bench and the engraved plaque for Rosas. The Slaff Family, the Mountain Empire Thrift Ship and the VFW Ladies Auxiliary combined the necessary funds for the plaque. The bench was provided by the county.
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“We’ve lived in Campo for 20 years and we know firsthand how dangerous that border can be”, Mrs. Slaff told me in an interview recently. “We locals wanted to honor Agent Rosas for making the ultimate sacrifice for our safety and freedom. We appreciate everything the Border Patrol does here in East (San Diego) County to keep the residents safe. Honoring Robert with a park bench at a children’s playground was the least we could do to honor his sacrifice”, she said.
Rosas left behind a wife and two young children, Kayla and Robert Matthew.
The new playground and bench are located at 976 Sheridan Road next to the Campo Community Center. The area is about one mile directly north of the Rosas Memorial Tree planted last summer by the San Diego Minutemen near the border fence at the end of Forest Gate Rd.
A large memorial cross erected by the Border Patrol is located about 5 miles east at the location of Rosas’ murder. The cross is about 100 yards north of the border fence near the community of Boulevard.
A state resolution for a Rosas Memorial Highway on I-8 near Kitchen Creek Rd. is also making its way through the California Legislature. The Assembly is due to vote on the measure June 27. The Senate approved the highway naming last month.
Once approved by the Assembly and governor, Caltrans will construct and install two memorial highway signs along I-8 in the area of the Pine Valley Border Patrol Station.
East San Diego County is a large rural community with many large ranches, similar to southern Arizona. And like Arizona, East County has long been plagued by heavy drug and human smuggling by the Mexican cartels. Some 18-foot tall fence has been built in recent years and the border patrol has more than doubled in size in the area, but many vulnerabilities still exist and rockings and shootings along the border are still common, as well as trespassing and break-ins of private property. Many border residents still live in fear, especially after dark. Sightings of armed smugglers trespassing north are not uncommon.
One Campo area resident told me when residents have a law enforcement issue on their properties, they call the Border Patrol, not the local sheriffs. “We trust the agents to respond quickly and go after the bad guys”, he said.