BY KIM VINCENT
It was a tumultuous 2017 for U.S. Marine Corps veteran and U.S. Border Patrol Agent Mark Wheeler and his
family, but they learned that as in the military, the Border Patrol takes care of its own.
Wheeler, 39, who is assigned to the Border Patrol El Centro Sector, was diagnosed with stage four metastatic lung cancer. Excruciating back pain lead to an extensive spinal surgery, ultimately leading to the fight of his life.
“Our primary community support has come from our Border Patrol family. We have received many types of support, ranging from babysitting our children during doctor appointments to bringing meals on a daily/weekly basis to alleviate some of the huge work load that Karina (his wife) has had to undertake,” Mark explained.
Karina said she has been equally impressed—and relieved—by the response from Mark’s fellow agents and others in the community.
“The impact has been amazing,” she said. “We have truly seen everyone’s willingness and dedication to helping out, no matter if it’s day or night. It has definitely relieved a lot of stress knowing that if we need help, it is there with a simple phone call.”
Mark’s path to El Centro began after serving from 1998-2005 with the 1st Battalion 24th Marines. He was stationed in Kuwait for Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. After leaving the Marines, Mark joined the U.S. Border Patrol in 2009, working in El Centro where he met Karina, who is from Holtville. Together, the Wheelers have five children.
Explaining the family’s journey, fellow Agent Joyce Golosino said, “The Border Patrol (next) took the family to Havre, Mont., where (Mark) became the commander of his sector’s Honor Guard, participating in numerous funerals, memorials and esprit de corps events.”
Golosino is commander of the USBP El Centro Sector Honor Guard team, of which Mark is a member.
“Mark (then) received a transfer back to the El Centro BP Station and was welcomed to our team,” she said.
The move back to El Centro, which occurred before Mark’s cancer diagnosis, came because the Wheelers wanted to be closer to family and establish a new home.
Joyce added, “The USBP ELC Honor Guard takes great pride and honor in what we do, honor our fallen. We also pull together to help our own, most recently, the Wheeler family. Mark’s Honor Guard and Border Patrol family have been steadfast in prayer and support for his recovery.”
Mark said, “Many people have supported us financially through personal donations, as well as an overwhelming generous ‘Go Fund Me’ page that has reached across the United States.”
The Wheeler family has received support from The American Legion Auxiliary Units in Holtville, Winterhaven, El Centro and Calipatria, American Legion posts in Calexico and Calipatria, and friends of those members.
The Holtville Unit, Mark said, “Recently arranged a wonderful Christmas treat for the family by bringing Santa Claus to our home with a sleigh full of gifts for our children. It was truly a blessing. Border Patrol Agents from El Centro and Yuma helped out with this also.”
Said Karina, “Our Yuma Border Patrol family has definitely taken us under their wing despite Mark working out of El Centro. Mark says that our BP family has shown us that ‘When one of us has fallen, the rest of us are here to help you back up, no matter what the cost.’ It is pretty awesome.”
On the medical side, Karina said, “As of the latest doctor appointment, some of the cancer has gotten smaller. Mark is still experiencing pain in some areas, but is slowly getting stronger and finally gaining back some weight.”
Mark’s physician has used the term “stable disease” as the most recent prognosis, Karina added. He will receive chemotherapy treatments indefinitely or until his body heals and doesn’t need it anymore.
Mark receives most of his treatments at the Yuma Cancer Center.
“It has been a blessing having that so close to home,” Karina said. Looking toward 2018, the Wheelers said they plan to love one another, enjoy their children and make many memories.
Mark is thankful for his amazing wife, Karina, and said, “She has done for me and our family during this time of chaos more than I could have ever imagined. She is the most important person to me in the whole world, and I love her and will be forever indebted to her.”
Karina said, “I am very thankful for everyone who has touched our lives and blessed us in so many ways, and have now become part of our family. I get very emotional just thinking back from day one of this journey.”
Those interested in donating to the family may do so at https://www.gofundme.com/stay-in-the-fight-for-mark-wheeler