California teenager receives heartfelt graduation gift
TULARE COUNTY, Calif. – Along with her diploma, California teenager Valerie Vasquez received a big surprise during graduation.
While hundreds crowded into the school’s stadium, there was one notable empty seat – one reserved for her father, Robert Vasquez.
She was five when her father passed away following a battle with cancer.
And, as the crowd spilled onto the field, Valerie’s uncle, Sergeant Ralph Vasquez, made a beeline for the grad.
“Hey Mija, congratulations,” he said, before giving her a hug.
As he took her to a corner of the field, he handed her an envelope. “Open it up real quick,” he told her.
Inside? A gift card and the well-wishes of family and friends – some who signed it were standing just yards away.
“You see all that, all those police officers?” Sgt. Vasquez said, pointing at a crowd of uniformed men and women. “Your dad is not here, but you have your family of law enforcement over here. Congratulations. Congratulations sweetheart!”
Officers from Farmersville, Visalia, Tulare and as far as Grover Beach carried on a law enforcement tradition. They represented a fallen law enforcement officer at a milestone for that officer’s family member.
Valerie was speechless, at first.
“It just felt so good to know they still care and he’s always in my heart,” she said. “It really helps and I know that he’s watching down. All these people are great guys and women and I’m so thankful they did this.”