CHICAGO --It's a rite of passage, a time for your family and friends to celebrate your first scholastic achievement. But one very important person couldn't be there to applaud Alex Valadez today, so a few dozen others stood in his place.
"They always do these little special things for my nephew to compensate for his dad not being here," says Wilda Garcia, Valadez's aunt.
Chicago Police Officer Alex Valadez Sr., 27, was shot and killed in June 2009 when he and his partner responded to a shots fired call in Englewood. Christina Rodriguez was three months shy of her due date with their son.
"He was really excited. He carried his ultrasound photo with him," says Tom Vargas, Valadez's CPD partner.
The young man now bears so much resemblance to his father.
"He's a character, he's got the smile, his charisma," Vargas says.
Especially when he's is in uniform.
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson waited outside the Church of Annunciata to offer his congratulations. Mounted police, firefighters and even the police helicopter joined in the salute.
"He's just so happy, to be out here to have everyone here supporting him on this day," says Garcia.
This is the community's gift to a young boy. What Alex doesn't realize is that he too is a gift to his family and to their friends.
"My brother is gone, but we have a part of him that's with us and that's special," Garcia says.
Friday's celebration comes just two days after this same crowd commemorated Officer Valadez' death. He was shot and killed seven years ago on Wednesday.