Category Archives: Reflections

Reflections on how we feel and how the mission is changing us

Footprints in the Sand, Grass, and Dirt

Being back home is great but weird. I love being back with my dog and in my own bed, but I wish I was still in Texas. Being in Falfurrias, I felt like I had a purpose every day. I woke up with a goal and pushed myself mentally, physically, and emotionally to try to achieve that goal. Back in Indy, I haven’t had the same feelings. The sense of community in Falfurrias is peaceful and close-knit, whereas it’s very easy to get lost in the hubbub of everyday life in a city as big as Indianapolis.

Beyond Borders May 2022 Team at the border wall

Even though this was my second trip with the Beyond Borders team, I still learned and grew so much over the week. I learned more about myself and what I want to devote my life to. I learned how I can push past physical and mental barriers. I learned a lot about my teammates and formed lifelong memories and stronger friendships. I grew as an individual. My perspective on the world has changed yet again. I want to work towards a future where people can live in peace and be reunited with their loved ones, and I want to help as many people as possible.

Me and Jordan

Being in classes and on campus every day, it is easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. We tend to get so caught up in our own lives that we don’t always realize the privilege we have. I have a home to go back to, food to eat, and the ability to further my education. Unfortunately, this is not true for so many people in the world. I know that a world without conflict will never happen, but I wish innocent lives were not being dragged into disagreements between the more privileged. Everyone should feel safe in their home, not be forced to risk their lives in order to survive.

Don and Ray

I wish we lived in a world where the Beyond Borders team didn’t need to exist, and that people like Don, Eddie, and the Remote Wildlands Search and Recovery Team didn’t have to do the work that they do. But, seeing the passion they have for what they do gives me hope that there are more people like them out there, and it is only a matter of time until their voices are heard. Working with Don and Ray on this trip was amazing. They have so much knowledge that they are more than willing to share, and they are truly inspirational individuals. I wish we had gotten to work with Eddie, too, but hopefully, the future Beyond Borders teams will get to catch up with him and everything he does.

Don doing some Don stuff

I wouldn’t have changed anything about this trip. The team was amazing, and we’ve formed a bond that cannot be broken. Being with people you can have fun with is great, but it’s the ones you can show vulnerability in front of that really matter, and that’s what we found on this trip. No one likes to be weak, but with a team of strong individuals behind you, anything is possible. I’m excited to see where the future takes my fellow teammates, as I know they will go on to do amazing things.

I am forever grateful to Dr. Latham for allowing me the opportunity to be a part of the Beyond Borders team. The memories I make, experiences I have, and knowledge I gain with the team will stay with me for a lifetime. I hope I will get to see Don, Ray, Eddie, and the rest of the guys on the Remote Wildlands Search and Recovery Team in the future. I know I will follow along with them as they continue with the incredible work that they do.

One of my favorite photos
The team before our very first search day. Still bright-eyed and full of energy

~ Olivia


A New Perspective

At last our journey has come to an end. I must admit that I felt a bit odd when I first woke up this morning. I’ve grown accustomed to the fast-paced routine we had in Texas. It was an intense work week where it sometimes seemed that we didn’t have a moment to take a breath. The physical and mental toll it took on my body was draining and unlike anything I have experienced before. That being said, I can’t wait to go again.

I must admit that I was a bit unsure about how our team dynamic was going to play out. The other more experienced members of my team have known each other for a whole year before I joined the Human Biology program. I can now say that I am glad to have shared this experience with them. Izzy, Jordan, and Olivia are incredible scientists and professionals who I’ve seen persevere and grow throughout this trip. I believe we have grown closer as colleagues and friends. There were many laughs and lighthearted times as well as times spent looking out for each others’ well being. Being the new guy on board, I learned a lot from them and look forward to working with each of them in the future, in whatever form that may take.

This trip was also very enlightening for me. My entire perspective about the humanitarian crisis at the border has changed. With every step through the treacherous terrain and every heavy sigh I grew more and more appreciative of the life I live. I could not imagine being in a predicament where one is essentially forced to make this journey. To say that someone has merely “crossed the border” is such an understatement of the sacrifices these migrants make. I understand that the topic of immigration is such a complicated issue oftentimes far beyond my political understanding. However, I can’t deny that these people deserve better. My heart breaks for the families of the deceased and missing. I hope they find peace. Although our team did not find what we were searching for at each coordinate location associated with a missing person, I can rest easy knowing that we did everything we possibly could to best serve the families and the migrants themselves.

I can’t end the last of my blog posts without mentioning Don and Ray of the Remote Wildlands Search and Recovery team. They made the journey with us to not only search for missing persons, but to keep us safe and healthy. Their efforts are the reason why we could participate in this trip in the first place. They are admirable men who aim to serve humanity out of the kindness of their hearts.

I also want to thank Dr. Latham for choosing me to be a part of this trip and for teaching me more about how to perform and execute my skills in the field. I am honored by her confidence in my abilities to serve the team.

During this trip I learned what the core principle of forensic anthropology is all about: community service. Solving cases and identifying individuals is about serving humanity and honoring the deceased. This trip showed me just how important it is to provide closure to families of loved ones whom they may never be reunited with. My family means everything to me and thanks to this experience, I now know just how important our work is.




Izzy and her new Whataburger bag

The day started even earlier than normal. We wanted to get on the road early, so we had some time to explore San Antonio and get used to city living again before our flights. We had one last breakfast at Whataburger before the last leg of our journey began.

Everyone slept in some interesting and painful positions in the minivan. Like any true friend, I made sure to take lots of embarrassing pictures for future blackmail. Unfortunately, I was threatened with revenge if I posted any here, but just know exhaustion and minivans are not conducive to comfortable nap positions.

Dr. Latham showing off her selfie skills at the Alamo

Once we got to San Antonio, we explored the Alamo for a couple of minutes. There were many more people and activities compared to our visit in January. I really enjoyed seeing all of the plants, and I’ve decided I need to grow a palm tree in Indiana. Wish me luck!

Once we were finished with the Alamo, we walked along the Riverwalk to do some shopping and exploring. We spent way too much money on souvenirs, but how could we resist so many cool things? We watched some baby ducklings for a minute and realized that we are Dr. Latham’s ducklings. We follow her just like the ducklings follow their mother duck.

Finally, we had to get to the airport. We got through security relatively unscathed, and no snacks had to be investigated this time! After a final Tex-Mex meal at Rosario’s, we got on our first flight to Dallas, where we had to speedwalk through the airport to make our connecting flight. I’m sure we were a sight to see with Izzy, Jordan, and I wearing huge matching crewnecks and Austin wearing a bright red, white, and blue hoodie. But, we made it just in time!

Three super cool girls in their matching crewnecks

Our last flight was a little bumpy (Jordan was not a fan), but it was nothing compared to the jostling we experienced when offroading in Sandy. Luckily, everything smoothed out for the landing, and after a long wait for our bags, we were finally done.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to end; it’s bittersweet. On one hand, I’m glad to be home, but, on the other, I’m sad the trip is over, and I want to go back. After one final team hug, another Beyond Borders trip has come to a close.

One last selfie with Don

~ Olivia