BALTIMORE (WJZ) — When Maryland State Police Superintendent Col. William Pallozzi called out “are you ready?” Friday afternoon in Reisterstown Maryland, 36 men and women shouted out, “Yes sir!”
They were more than ready to be formally sworn in as Maryland State troopers.
To get to this point took six months of mental and physical training. It culminated with the short walk to the superintendent to receive their badges. A moment they have not only waited for, so have their families.
One graduate in particular overcame a lot to be on that stage continuing a family tradition that spanned three generations.
Derek Harper received his badge from his father Sgt. David Harper, while his grandfather, a retired state trooper watched.
“It feels amazing,” said Derek. “It’s been a long six months. A hard six months at times, but I’ve had great support around me.”
The obstacles of the past six months are only the most recent for Trooper Derek Harper.
At age three, cerebral palsy affected his legs.
Years of therapy, braces and surgery did little to slow him down.
“It’s been a long road. There’s always been questions, would this inhibit the dreams that I had,” Derek said. “And ultimately I had my family to support me. They never shied me away from what I wanted to do.”
His family couldn’t have been prouder Friday as Derek was pinned by his father.
“He’s always been humble,” said David, “knowing there are people who have it a lot worse off than he does, so I just hope he always keeps fighting the fight.”
“It’s been a long journey, but we’ve made it to this part of the journey,” said Derek’s mother Sandy. “Now the next step.”
That next step is on to field training, having made it through all the academy requires.
Harper’s classmates are a new second family.
“Without every single one of them, I would not be here. I would not be here,” Derek added.