- Associated Press - Saturday, December 24, 2016

FENTON, Mo. (AP) - A new Missouri police academy graduate is following the career path of his late father, who was killed nearly a quarter-century ago during a training operation.

Joseph Strehl, 26, graduated recently from the St. Louis County and Municipal Police Academy, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (https://bit.ly/2gKWwRu) reported.

His father, 35-year-old Stephen Strehl, was killed in November 1993 in a helicopter crash during training with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration; Joseph Strehl was just 2.

Nearly two dozen DEA agents attended Joseph Strehl’s graduation, including some who knew his dad, said DEA analyst Tony Wagner, who once supervised Stephen Strehl as the lieutenant of the city’s narcotics unit. Sitting with the Strehl family was St. Louis police Col. Jerry Leyshock, a eulogist at Stephen Strehl’s funeral who graduated from the police academy with the elder Strehl on Dec. 2, 1979.

“When Steve died, it was like a part of our body got chopped off,” Leyshock recalled. “We were inconsolable.”

Leyshock said he has worried about what would become of the Strehl boys - Joseph is the middle child - and whether they’d make the father they hardly knew proud.

When Joseph Strehl came back from serving in Kuwait with the Army, Leyshock was among the first to talk to him about joining the academy. The ensuing 25 weeks of training proved to be trying: Each day, Joseph Strehl and other recruits touched a memorial plaque at the academy’s entrance, and Strehl he had to walk past his father’s name twice more on memorial plaques hanging in the hallway to the classroom.

At graduation, Leyshock put his arm around the son for a picture. Strehl’s mother, Kathy Yansen-Strehl, said the memory of Leyshock once posing with Stephen Strehl, beaming with just as much pride, popped back into her mind.

“I just got the chills,” she said.

___

Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, https://www.stltoday.com


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