CHICAGO – A Chicago second grader started summer break with a surprise salute Friday.
8-year-old Alex Valadez was first to exit Annunciata School in the city’s East Side neighborhood, ready for summer.
And he froze on the school steps.
Awaiting him was a legion of Chicago police officers who stood silently saluting him.
“He was stunned,” Superintendent Eddie Johnson said. “We had a chance to talk and I asked him, ‘Did you have any idea?’ And he said, ‘No, but this is so cool.’”
Alex’s father, Officer Alex Valadez Sr, died three months before he was born.
Superintendent Johnson said Officer Valadez was killed in the line of duty investigating a shooting in Englewood in 2009.
“It’s a difficult thing but it’s important for us to step in for him when he can’t be here … to let his son know we’re proud of his dad and his sacrifices. We have to let Alex know that we’ll never forget and we’ll always be there for him.”
The police force is now family and offered handshakes and hugs in the big moments – just the way his father might have done.
CPD leaders brought the K9 unit and the mounted unit to the school. Alex got to meet the horse named for his father.
Annunciata Principal Ed Renas said it was a moving moment
“It really shows that our police force appreciates the sacrifice that our fellow officers have made for the city, but also how important our children are,” he said. “He’s a great kid - very personable, very friendly and very genuine. He really was truly surprised.”
Officers did the same thing for Alex when he graduated from kindergarten two years ago and Superintendent Johnson says he’ll be at more of the boy’s big moments in the years to come saying the force will stand by his family forever.