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.