-- For Jessica Scherlen's three children, the first day back to school was a little lonelier this year.
That's because their father, officer Justin Scherlen of the Amarillo Police Department in Texas, died earlier this month after succumbing to injuries he sustained in the line of duty.
For the first time in their lives, the three kids didn't have their dad to escort them to school.
But in a sweet surprise, a group of nearly two dozen APD officers stepped up to fill their fallen comrade's shoes.
On the siblings' first day back Monday, the officers showed up at their elementary school, escorted them to class and lined up to give them hugs before leaving.
"It was a complete surprise," APD public information officer Jeb Hilton told ABC News today. "The kids were very excited and emotional."
For 4-year-old Jackson Scherlen, the surprise was particularly special since it was his first day of school ever, Hilton said.
"I'd give it all back just to have Justin here with his son," APD pfficer Daniel Smith told ABC affiliate KVII in Amarillo. "At least we can be here for him and let Jackson know that he always has someone to call on.”
Jessica Scherlen told KVII she thought her late husband "would be very proud of how his brothers and sisters have stepped up to be here" for their kids.
She added that it was "awesome to see" her family was "still loved by the blue family and that they still care."