AUSTIN (KXAN) - As hundreds of thousands honor National Police Week, one Austin firefighter is taking some time out to reflect upon his special connection to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Firefighter Andy Reardon's uncle, Kevin Welsh, died in the line of duty on Aug. 4, 1986. At the age of 34, he served as an officer in the Washington, D.C., metro area and was married with two children.
Reardon was a senior in high school at the time.
"Still can't get my mom running into the weight room out of my head," explained Reardon.
His mother had gone to the high school to tell him about his uncle's passing.
Welsh died while saving a drowning woman in the Potomac River. He and his partner jumped in and rescued her, but soon after Welsh handed the woman's body over to his partner, a strong undercurrent dragged him under.
Nearly 27 years later, Reardon bears a tattoo of a bracelet with his uncle's name on it.
Reardon has also visited the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C., where a tracing of his uncle's name remains forever etched into the wall honoring the fallen officers.
Reardon's wife was very close to Padron, as she works for the Austin Police Department in the same North Substation where Padron was stationed.
Some 60 APD officers began a journey on Sunday to Washington, D.C., for the week-long annual event that honors law enforcement officers who made the ultimate sacrifice, as well as the family members, friends and fellow officers they left behind.
For the law enforcement community the tribute is bittersweet.
"I'm going with all the friends that we all knew together, and also former partners, so we have a good time as far as spending time together," said APD Officer Henry Aguilar, who knew Padron even before they both joined the Austin force. "But then at the same time every time we hear the bagpipes and candle lights, and name on the wall, it's kind of like being at the funeral again."
Padron's parents, siblings and daughters will attend the ceremonies.
This year the names of 320 officers killed in the line of duty are being added to the national memorial. These 320 officers include Padron and 118 other officers who were killed during 2012, plus 201 officers who died in previous years. Their stories had been lost to history until now.
In April, 2012 Padron was shot to death after confronting an armed man inside a North Austin Walmart. Thousands from the "thin blue line" joined from around the country for his funeral service. Many more citizens paid tribute along the procession route from Austin as Padron's body was taken to his native San Angelo for a funeral mass and burial.
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