huddled under the international bridge in Del Rio, Texas.

Mr. Abbott has faced enormous political pressure to respond.

According to state documents, Mr. Abbott in September requested that 1,500 troops join the 500 or so who had already been deployed to the border. Later that same week, Tucker Carlson began attacking Mr. Abbott on his Fox News show, which is popular with conservatives, for not sending more National Guard troops, and in subsequent days invited Mr. Abbott’s Republican challengers onto his show to do the same.

outspoken in his criticism, angered by state cuts to tuition assistance for the Guard last year as billions were allocated for the border mission.

Mr. Featherston and a number of other soldiers said they also were disturbed by at least four recent suicides of Guardsmen who had been called up for Operation Lone Star, though the reasons behind the suicides remained unclear. Suicides in the military represent a persistent crisis, with trauma and stress contributing to numbers that have climbed every year since 2001.

John Crutcher, a 45-year-old sergeant in the Guard and a captain for Dallas Fire-Rescue who went by Kenny, had obtained permission to temporarily delay his service to care for his wife after an emergency surgery, their daughter and his brother-in-law, who has Down syndrome and lived with them.

Still, the pressure of balancing his family life and his role leading other soldiers in the Guard weighed on him, his wife, Heather Seymour, said. “He was getting these photos from the border — here I’m guarding this R.V. park and that’s my mission,” she said. “None of it made sense to them, why it was all so important to leave their families and their jobs.”

With his temporary waiver set to eventually expire, Ms. Seymour said her husband grew increasingly agitated before killing himself. He had struggled with alcohol and post-traumatic stress from his service overseas in places like Afghanistan and had sought help. The border mission added to his struggles, she said.

Another member who sought a waiver from the mission, Joshua R. Cortez, was found dead in his car from a self-inflicted gunshot wound two days after his waiver was denied, records show.

first reported by Army Times. “That said, we need to understand the larger context,” he added, providing statistics on suicides among U.S. military soldiers.

Mr. Featherston said that the well-being of soldiers was being put at risk by the vagueness of the mission and its apparent lack of advanced planning.

“I believe we should be on the border, but you’ve got to give them a purpose,” Mr. Featherston said. “A lot of people think this is a publicity stunt. Why all of a sudden the big push?”

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