Dozens of police officers escort fallen comrade's children on their first day of school
When a Texas police officer passed away earlier this month, his widow dreaded taking their children to the first day of school without him.
But when the start of the semester rolled around this week, her husband's former comrades made sure Jessica Scherlen and her children weren't alone.
"It was heartwarming," the mom of four told InsideEdition.com. "It was so loving."
Her husband Justin, who had worked at the department since 2004, was seriously injured in a traffic accident while on duty in September 2015. He underwent multiple surgeries and his friends at the Amarillo Police Department anticipated he would recover, according to Officer Daniel Smith.
So they were shocked to hear he'd succumbed to his injuries earlier this month.
"I'll never forget the day," Smith told InsideEdition.com. "I thought it was a joke."
As the start of the school year got closer, a few officers suggested escorting his children on their first day of classes and word spread like wildfire.
"Gotta be there," Smith said. "He was family."
His wife, now left to raise four kids ranging from 21 months to 4th grade, said she anticipated the first day of school would be tough, so when she received a phone call from officers saying that they wanted to meet their children in the parking lot of the school before their first day, "I was really surprised."
"It felt really good for them to reach out like that," she said.
She kept it a secret from the kids, including her son Jackson, who was heading to his first-ever day in class.
"I can't imagine how Jackson must have felt," Officer Smith said. "It was hard to see him have to do that without his daddy."
But nearly two dozen cops from the Amarillo Police Department turned up to help him through it.
"My second grader asked me, 'mom, are they here for us?'" Jessica said. "I said, 'yes they're going to walk you into school.'"
The children were shocked. "They'll walk me into school?" second-grader Taylor asked. "They'll walk me into class?'"
When it was Jackson's turn, Smith said he started giving each officer hugs, "and then he worked his way down the line. It brought a lot of tears."
The officers were impressed by the little man's bravery. "He reached for his mama's hand but he was all smiles," Smith recalled.
And even though the children weren't there with their dad, the officers ensured the first day at school was still special, Jessica said.
"It's not quite the same when your parent can't take you and do things like that," she said, "but to know the blue family is there behind them, that really helps."