Thousands of miles from home, Sgt. Patrick Valenzuela still found a way to honor the police department he serves.
Valenzuela, a Glendale police officer and active reserve member with the U.S. Air Force, was called to the Middle East earlier this summer to combat the Islamic State.
During his nearly three months there, Valenzuela flew a “thin blue line” flag during combat missions in Syria, Iraq, Kuwait, Yemen, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates to honor the Glendale officers who risk their lives back home.
Valenzuela presented the flag to Glendale police Chief Rick St. John on Thursday morning.
“It’s just an honor to receive this flag from Pat and to be able to display it in the office,” St. John said. “Every time I look at it, I’ll remember that we’ve got guys overseas — we always have people that are overseas that are protecting our borders in ways that I’ll never understand not having been in the military.”
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St. John estimated that about 15 of Glendale’s 430 sworn officers are also active in the military.
Valenzuela, who’s been with the department since 1996, joined the U.S. Navy in 2004. He was a reserve member there until 2015, when he transferred to the Air Force. Valenzuela lauded the police department for accommodating his military career.
“I love serving the police department, and I love serving my country,” Valenzuela said. “And they make it easy for me. It’s not hard. I think it would be hard if I didn’t have a job to come back to.”
Valenzuela said he plans to continue his military service for another six years, ending with a 20-year tenure.
“The military’s a young man’s game,” Valenzuela said with a chuckle.
Reach the reporter Perry Vandell at 602-444-2474 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Perry Vandell.