When Dakota Smith solemnly walked across the stage to pick up his high school diploma, more than a dozen police officers snapped to attention and saluted, and the crowd gave him a standing ovation.
Dakota’s father, a deputy sheriff, died in the line of duty just hours before the graduation ceremony at Clarksville High School in Arkansas. Dakota decided to attend the commencement in a show of inner strength over grief.
Word spread quickly of Dakota’s decision, and police officers who knew Reserve Deputy Sonny Smith assembled alongside the stage to stand in for the father who couldn’t be there.
Photos by Julie Moore (top), and Samantha D Sowells-Irving, via 53 Hours Facebook Page
“There was a lot of outpouring emotion… he received a lot of applause and rightfully so,” School Superintendent David Hopkins told KARK News.