It has been more than seven years since Roland Barvels, a former Aberdeen police officer, was killed in the line of duty in Iraq.
His widow, Cindy Barvels, has worked to move on from the tragedy and was surprised around Thanksgiving, when she was asked to go to a ceremony in his honor.
Her late husband was posthumously awarded the Secretary of Defense Medal for the Defense of Freedom.
"We felt all of those memories again," she said. "There were mixed emotions."
The medal is given to civilian employees who are killed or wounded while serving overseas. Criteria for receiving the medal are similar to those for Purple Hearts given to military members.
"All of this time has gone by, and it meant so much to me for them to remember him now," Cindy Barvels said. "I'm just overwhelmed."
In addition to receiving the medal in Roland Barvels' honor, the family attended the unveiling of a memorial wall at the State Department that honors those killed while serving criminal justice assistance programs overseas.
"It was an emotional roller coaster," Cindy Barvels said.
Cindy Barvels said the family moved to Aberdeen in 1999, when her husband took a job with the Aberdeen Police Department.
He left the Aberdeen Police Department to work for DynCorp, a private corporation that is a military contractor, in fall 2005. DynCorp has a contract with the Department of State's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.
"They learn to protect and serve," said Cindy Barvels of law enforcement personnel.
In addition to being a law enforcement officer for 20 years, he previously served in the Army National Guard, Army Reserves and Air National Guard.
She said her late husband wanted to do his part for his country and the decision to serve in Iraq was made as a family. He wanted to serve in Kosovo during that conflict, but decided against it because his sons were too young.
He helped train police forces in Iraq for only a few months before being killed by a roadside bomb near Basra, Iraq, in January 2006.
"He hoped to come back to work with local law enforcement again," Cindy Barvels said.
According to the certificate awarded, the four red stripes on the medal represent valor and sacrifice. The number of red stripes represents four planes hijacked on Sept. 11, with a single thick blue stripe representing the terrorist attack on the Pentagon that same day. The white stripes, as with the American flag, are for liberty.
Cindy Barvels said it was an honor to receive the medal on behalf of her late husband. She said employees are usually forgotten once they leave their jobs, but that wasn't the case with DynCorp.
"They know the sacrifice that has been paid, and they'll never forget what has happened," she said. "The Department of State and Dyncorp will never forget the fallen, and to me, that's huge."
A snowstorm in Februrary kept Cindy Barvels and her youngest son, Austin, from going to Washington, D.C., for the ceremony, as originally planned.
"I was so discouraged when we couldn't get there," she said.
Since the Barvels were unable to fly out of Aberdeen, Roland Barvels' former employer DynCorp International arranged for a special ceremony a few weeks ago.
Rescheduling the ceremony meant that Austin’s older brother Dustin, who studies at the University of North Dakota, could go, too.
Going through old photographs for the ceremony and talking about Roland Barvels were difficult, Cindy Barvels said. The family has come a long way, she said.
"You can't stand in that sorrow," she said. "You have to move on."
For Austin Barvels, who was 12 when his father died, the ceremony brought closure. Austin Barvels, 20, is now studying at the North Dakota State College of Science.
His brother, Dustin Barvels, will be a senior at the UND this fall.
Cindy Barvels said the family moved to Aberdeen from North Dakota because of her late husband's police job, but decided to stay because it became home.
"All of the support from the community was overwhelming," she said. "The support was amazing."