- Associated Press - Saturday, June 24, 2017

DOTHAN, Ala. (AP) - Alabama State Trooper Capt. Tracy Nelson and his son, Houston County Sheriff’s Deputy Pate Nelson, take great pride in continuing their family tradition of law enforcement.

Both say the brotherly bond of law enforcement enhances their blood bond.

When Tracy began his career with the Alabama State Troopers in 1996, he knew he had to go above and beyond everyone’s expectations. He was joining the troopers where not only his father, Capt. Douglas Nelson, retired after 27 years of dedicated service, but his grandfather, the late Capt. James Pate, retired as well after 27 years of service.

“I can remember hearing stories from both as I grew up,” Nelson said. “I basically grew up around law enforcement. It was all I knew. I remember deciding very early in life; becoming a trooper was all I wanted and all I desired. When I approached my father about becoming a trooper, he informed me it was not how it was 20 years ago. Things have changed. Little did I know years down the road I would repeat those same words to my son.”

When Pate was growing up, Nelson was determined not to push his son into law enforcement, nor pull him away. The role of trooper ended and the role of daddy began when Nelson would get home from work.

“The first thing I would do while Pate was growing up was take off my uniform and gun,” Nelson said. “My job once I was home was to be daddy and coach. I never wanted to influence my son when it came to law enforcement. I know now what my dad was talking about. Things have changed. Did I want Pate to have a career in law enforcement? Not really. I’m like every other parent, I worry too. Am I supportive of his decision? Yes, and I am very proud to share this bond with my son. I look forward to him getting off his shift and sharing his stories with me. But, no matter what, I am going to worry. A career in law enforcement is just like a career in the military, you never know what could happen.”

When Pate turned 18, he was ready to put his career goals into motion.

“I asked my dad to go with me to the Geneva County Sheriff’s Office to get my gun permit,” Pate Nelson said. “After I got my permit, Sheriff Tony Helms asked if there was anything else he could do for me. I never told my dad a career in law enforcement was a dream of mine. Actually, when I would do projects in school, I would do them on law enforcement and not even inform my dad. That day in Sheriff Helms’ office, my dream became reality. I asked Sheriff Helms about serving as an auxiliary deputy. In no time at all, I was serving the citizens. On my first night as an auxiliary deputy, I knew law enforcement was for me. I had to do it.”

With Pate having high hopes and dreams about a career in law enforcement, there was nothing that could change his mind.

“I remember approaching my dad about a career in law enforcement,” he said. “I could tell that was something he hoped he would never hear. My father tried to explain things had changed over the years. Things were not like they used to be 20 years ago. But, nothing would change my mind. It was made up.”

At the age of 19, Pate was hired by Houston County Sheriff Donald Valenza. While training in the academy, Pate celebrated his 20 th birthday.

“I never thought Donald would have hired Pate,” Nelson said. “He was only 19. But, I’m grateful that he did. He gave Pate a chance and that is all anyone can ask for. I know Pate. He will make a great law enforcement officer. Every day, I hope he remembers just how bad he wanted to be in law enforcement. I want him to always remember this is a job where you serve the people. Those are two things I strongly believe in and I have stressed them to Pate. I know he will make a fine law enforcement officer. He comes from a long line of dedicated law enforcement officers. But most importantly, I am very proud of my son. He is making his dreams come true.”

Although Nelson is a proud father, Pate is also proud of his accomplishments.

“I know because of me being young, there have been questions and concerns,” Pate said. “But, I think now, everyone knows this is something I feel very strongly about. My dad always taught me to give everything my all. I want to make a difference in the lives of those I serve. My dad also taught me, in law enforcement, an officer has to be there to protect those who can’t protect themselves. I know he truly believes that is the true meaning of law officer, and so do I.

“With my dad now understanding this is my calling, just like it is his calling, we have an additional bond that will never be broken,” Pate said. “I take great pride in being the fourth generation in my family to have a career in law enforcement. I plan to continue our family tradition with pride and determination just as my dad, granddad and great-granddad have done for so many years.”

Pate continues to set lofty goals.

“My dad has accomplished a lot during his career,” Nelson said. “I have set many goals for myself. But, one goal that is very important to me is making my own name in this field. I hear things all the time such as ‘Have you met Tracy’s boy?’ or ‘That’s Tracy’s son’, and that is fine. But, one day I want to make my own name in law enforcement. I want to hear, ‘Here comes Deputy Nelson’. When I hear that, I know I have made a name for myself.”

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