10 years pass since Santa Clara police cadet was killed serving in Afghanistan

On Tuesday, special tribute was held for a Santa Clara police cadet explorer who was deployed to Afghanistan and never returned. Tuesday marks 10 years since 21-year-old Sean Walsh was killed while serving in Operation Enduring Freedom.

At Santa Clara police headquarters, half a dozen police officers worked out. Their routine consists of 11 wall balls, 16 mountain climbers and 11 kettlebell swings as many rounds as possible for 21 minutes.

"The workouts are difficult," said Sgt. Greg Deger of Santa Clara police. "They are done that way for a reason. This one is part of our hero WOD program. WOD being workout of the day."

The number of reps and the workout duration mean something. On November 16, 2011, 21-year-old U.S. Army Specialist Sean Walsh, who had been an explorer for Santa Clara police, was killed in Afghanistan.

"He was serving with the 185th military police battalion," said Sgt. Deger. "He was killed in a mortar attack. He was very near and dear to us that were here at the department at the time."

Deger, who served in the California Army National Guard the same time as Sean, remembers him as driven.

"You could see the trajectory," said Sgt. Deger. "The military service. He was doing very well."

"Ten years," said Cheryl Walsh of San Jose. "It’s still hard. I still cry today just like I did the first year, the second year, the fourth year."

Sean was Cheryl Walsh’s only child. Sean’s goal was to join Santa Clara police. At the age of 18, he was too young to be an officer so he enlisted in the military paying the ultimate sacrifice.

"It’s devastating but then as a parent of a soldier who put himself in harm’s way I’m very proud," said Walsh.

Sean’s mother started the K9 Memorial Foundation in honor of her son in 2012. Sean’s dream was to be a K9 handler. The nonprofit has helped provide 32 police dogs across the country. Santa Clara police was its first K9 recipient.

"Oh it’s fantastic, our K9 program has benefited greatly from it as have others," said Sgt. Deger.

Sean’s mother said had Sean lived, he’d be a K9 handler serving one community.

"Inspired by his passing, we’ve been able to provide 32 dogs and help two dozen communities and hundreds of thousands of people."

Now, they’re paying Sean’s dream forward one K9 at a time.

"Sean is indirectly kind of watching over us and helping us and still protecting people and serving to this day," said Sgt. Deger.

Sean was also an explorer for the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office, so pre-COVID there would be a big workout challenge. The hope is to bring that back next year.

Azenith Smith is a reporter for KTVU.  Email Azenith at azenith.smith@fox.com and follow her on Twitter and Instagram @AzenithKTVU or Facebook or ktvu.com.