They entered as Cadets. 122 strong, the 159th DPS Trooper graduating Training Class, Friday morning, marched into Shoreline church. Together they pledged to protect the state of Texas.
They were also urged by DPS Director Steve McCraw to protect their integrity.
"When you leave here today please also remember, the most important tool that you have, won’t be your shotgun, or handgun, it won’t be a rifle, it’s not your vehicle, it’s not even your vest, the most important tool that you have when you leave here today is the space between your ears,” said Director McCraw.
The ceremony featured what’s believed to be the first ever graduation of two sisters from the same class.
Sharadyn Andrews is a former IRS employee. Her sister, Mychelle Montoya, was a Navy Seabee who served in Iraq. "We were talking on the phone one day and just decided that this is what we are going to do, so we applied two days apart,” said Andrews.
That began 23 weeks of intense work in the classroom -- and on the training field.
"And we worked together, throughout the academy, that kind of helped give each other support,” said Montoya.
The two admit, at times, there was some sibling rivalry. "I beat her time,” said Montoya.
But Andrews responded by quickly pointing out it wasn’t a wide margin of victory.
“By like 7 seconds, 7 seconds.”
The sisters were joined by 13 other women- 12 former police officers and 48 military veterans.
The youngest is 21. The oldest is 49. It was noted just how hard the cadets had to work. Family members were told that as a whole the class lost 1,788 pounds.
One cadet, after 23 weeks of training, lost a total of 61 pounds.
It’s not uncommon for DPS graduation ceremonies to see a second generation law enforcement officer take the oath. A son or daughter following the foot steps of a parent. While that was the case Friday morning, for one family it was a bitter sweet moment.
Johnny Karlton Keesee graduated with a business degree, but he always knew a badge would be waiting.
"So my dad always wanted, ever since I was little, he wanted to teach me how to be a Trooper.
Keesee's father, who was a state trooper, died in a car crash two years ago while on patrol. After Karlton saluted Director McCraw, his father's uniform was held up next two him. It was a symbolic salute and acknowledgment that he was not alone while at the academy.
"You'd just draw from him, looking at his picture in the hallway every day, it’s tough you just make it through and know he is there with you at all times,” said Keesee.
Graduation day concluded with hugs, handshakes and also a wedding proposal.
Trooper Jose Gonzalez gave his girlfriend a ring after he got his badge. It was another example of all the different graduation stories of the day, and the one common mission they all have now started.