Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - NEWS -

Gon­za­lez once had the same am­bi­tion.

Gon­za­lez said that hear­ing Holmes an­nounce her goal reignited her own as­pi­ra­tions. “I had given up on the idea be­cause I didn’t want to go through it my­self,”

Gon­za­lez said, adding that the thought of hav­ing com­pany ap­pealed to her.

“Marj and I had been work­ing so well to­gether,” said Holmes.

“It just made per­fect sense,” Gon­za­lez added.

Welsh said one of the most in­spir­ing com­po­nents of their jour­ney was the pair’s team­work. “As they met the var­i­ous chal­lenges,

some of which were quite dif­fi­cult, they kept each other’s spir­its up,” Welsh said. “Their syn­ergy to­gether was a joy to watch.”

In ad­di­tion, the duo’s ob­vi­ous com­mit­ment, per­se­ver­ance, and ded­i­ca­tion inspired oth­ers in the of­fice, Welsh said, adding that the train­ing reg­i­men pro­duced a va­ri­ety of ob­sta­cles.

For Gon­za­lez, a Navy vet­eran who joined the Sher­iff’s Of­fice in April 2011, the phys­i­cal train­ing and the firearms in­struc­tion pre­sented the big­gest hur­dles. She noted that she and Holmes were the old­est mem­bers of their class, and some­times keep­ing up with younger class­mates proved a bit in­tim­i­dat­ing.

In ad­di­tion, Gon­za­lez, who grew up in Delaware County and at­tended Haver­ford High and Millersville

State Col­lege, had to grap­ple with some dis­tant mem­o­ries: She hadn’t used a firearm in more than three decades.

Both women found the sched­ule gru­el­ing. Af­ter putting in a full day at the Ch­ester County Jus­tice Cen­ter, they fought rush-hour traf­fic, of­ten just mak­ing it to the Delaware County cam­pus in time for roll call at 5:45 p.m. Their classes went from 6 to 10 p.m.

“There re­ally wasn’t time to do any­thing else,” said Holmes, who beat it back home in time to put her boys to bed.

Holmes also ex­pe­ri­enced dif­fi­culty dur­ing the firearms train­ing, but for a dif­fer­ent rea­son. The reg­i­men re­quired par­tic­i­pants to add full Satur­days and Sun­days to their sched­ules for six weeks.

“I had no time with my boys for a month and a half,” Holmes said. “That was re­ally rough for me.”

Be­sides re­ceiv­ing pe­ri­odic boosts from one an­other as well as col­leagues in the CCSO, both women ben­e­fit­ted from per­sonal sup­port sys­tems. Holmes cred­ited her mother and sons and Gon­za­lez praised her pas­tor and mem­bers of her church, Saints Me­mo­rial Bap­tist Church in Bryn Mawr.

When grad­u­a­tion time ap­proached, Gon­za­lez and Holmes learned that if they were em­ployed by a lawen­force­ment agency, their boss could par­tic­i­pate in the cer­e­mony.

“It was such a great honor to stand on that stage and hand them their diplo­mas,” said Welsh. “It was a spe­cial mo­ment for all three of us.

These were two ex­tra­or­di­nary women who toughed it out through a rig­or­ous pro­gram. I couldn’t be prouder of what they ac­com­plished.”

Cpl. Brad De­Sando, one of the cheer­ing mem­bers of the CCSO at the grad­u­a­tion, con­fessed to hav­ing mixed emo­tions.

“I’m def­i­nitely proud of their achieve­ment,” said De­Sando. “Ob­vi­ously our ranks of sworn per­son­nel will ben­e­fit from two peo­ple who have demon­strated such com­pe­tence and re­li­a­bil­ity, and I will con­tinue to sup­port them in any way that I can.”

De­Sando also ex­plained that he su­per­vises the se­cu­rity force and is there­fore los­ing two stel­lar of­fi­cers. “Find­ing re­place­ments of their cal­iber is go­ing to be tough,” he said.

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