LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — The son of a Los Angeles sheriff’s deputy killed in the line of duty is honoring his father by following in his footsteps.

The graduating recruits of L.A. County Sheriff’s Academy Class 429 marched in for their badge pinning ceremony Thursday night. It was a special evening for Joseph Blair, who says his father was his “first hero.”

“He was a deputy already when I was born. I always looked up to him and wanted to do it as well,” he said.

Deputy Stephen Blair was Blair’s father. When he was only six years old, the nine-year veteran of the sheriff’s department was shot and killed in Lynwood during a crackdown on area gangs in May 1995. Blair says his family’s loss didn’t discourage his dream of becoming a deputy, just like his dad.

“I do have a picture of him in my room. Every time I wake up and look at him, it reminds me to keep working hard in his name,” he said.

On this day, Blair stands in front of the memorial wall that bears his dad’s name as he gets pinned. He has always kept his father in his heart, and now a badge close to it with the numbers his father wore.

“He’s on my mind pretty much every day, before the Academy, even more so today,” he added. “I get to wear his same badge number so it means a lot to me.”

Sheriff Jim McDonnell was there to congratulate the graduates and to recognize Blair’s accomplishments.

“To be able to see Joe come on the job and to have the excitement that he has, the passion for the mission and to have such a supportive family who’s been through so much but yet has encouraged him every step of the way,” McDonnell commended.

“I believe he’s watching over me for sure,” Blair added. “It’s been a long journey, 22 weeks to get to this point. It’s all coming together, very emotional. I’m extremely excited to get my career going and go forward.”

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