AUSTIN (NEXSTAR) — As the commanding staff swore in the newest class of Texas Department of Public Safety troopers and issued credentials to the group, one member of the duty roster stood out.
Johnny Karlton Keesee, of Brownwood, Texas, walked up when his name was called, saluted the director of DPS, Steven McCraw, and received his credentials in front of his father’s uniform.
His dad, Sergeant William “Karl” Keesee died in the line of duty on Oct. 29, 2015 at age 49, according to DPS. The car crash that took his life in Mills County occurred about 45 minutes from where he was stationed in Brownwood.
“It’s bittersweet, but it’s more of a celebration than anything,” Keesee said about his mixed emotions for the day. “Everybody’s so proud of me, and Dad, and what he’s accomplished and what I’m going to accomplish. It’s a big celebration.”
After graduating from college in Abilene, Keesee started working in the restaurant business. Despite some success, he said his father’s career inspired him to dive into public service.
“Ever since I was little he would teach me how to become a trooper,” he said. Director McCraw emphasized the department’s commitment to protecting Texans, while also keeping a strong internal bond.
“It’s an important day for the Department of Public Safety,” McCraw said. “For that matter, it’s an important day for the State of Texas. Every time we graduate a new class of state troopers, Texas becomes safer.”
Keesee said his dad was on his mind all day, adding that he thought his father would be proud of this new endeavor. “Looking at his picture in the hallway every day, it’s tough, but you make it through and know he’s with you there at all times,” Keesee explained.
Another special moment at Friday’s ceremony included a first for the department. Two sisters graduated trooper training together.
Troopers Sharadyn Andrews and Mychelle Montoya said they had some healthy competition throughout the program, and it pushed them to work harder. “It meant a lot,” Andrews said, adding that public service runs in her family’s blood.
“Our Dad is a firefighter, and so he understands our line of work more-so, so he seems really proud of us, as does our Mom,” she mentioned.
“I think it’s a big accomplishment, and something that can make all of our family proud,” Montoya stated.
“We believe we are a family,” said Sgt. Victor Taylor, with DPS. “We have deep traditions.” Friday’s graduates are scheduled to report for duty on July 9. Keesee was assigned to work in Waco, Andrews to Fredricksburg, and Montoya to Kermit.
DPS said Class A-2017, the 159th trooper training class, included 15 women, 12 former police officers and 48 members of the military.