When Kristen Mundell got married over the weekend, she draped her father’s police jacket over the chair where he would have sat during the ceremony. It was her way of honoring a father lost in the line of duty nearly six years ago.
What she didn’t expect was that her father’s fellow officers had a special tribute of their own for her.
A close family friend and fellow law enforcement officer walked Mundell down the aisle Saturday to give her away. He also started the father-daughter dance at the reception.
But then, one by one, a handful of brothers in blue cut in line to finish out the dance with her.
“I was like, ‘What is going on?’ I was so confused. There were so many mixed emotions. I was so happy to see them but confused at the same time,” Mundell told TODAY.com.
After the first uniformed officer tapped her on the shoulder, the two danced and spoke briefly.
“He was telling me that they’re always here for me, and then I said, ‘I can’t believe you’re here,’ and he said something like, ‘There’s a whole line of us.’ And that’s when the next officer came up,” she said.
“That’s when it really hit me. Oh my gosh, these guys really are always here for me, and they want to show their love and support for me and my family, and they want to honor my dad and make this the best wedding day for me.”
Kent Mundell, a deputy with the Pierce County Sheriff’s office in Washington, was shot while responding to a domestic violence call in December 2009, according to his memorial page. He died from his injuries seven days later.
Kirsten was 16 at the time. Now 22, she reserved a front-row seat for her father with his police coat and a framed photograph of him holding her when she was a 3-month-old baby.
Kirsten also paid tribute to her dad by adding blue lacing, to symbolize law enforcement, to the back of her white gown.
"I knew he was there and watching over me, and proud and happy,“ she said.
Angela Lyons, the photographer who chronicled the wedding, described the reception as “a collision of emotions” for everyone attending.
“It was so sweet and touching but at the same time, your heart was just breaking,” she said. "The way they were dancing with her, the expression on their faces, you could tell they were trying to soak in her pain, just like her real father would."
Don Jones, the Seattle Police detective who walked Mundell down the aisle, said he’s especially pleased to see that the wedding has raised awareness about Mundell's father, a good friend and former next-door neighbor.
“Now Kirsten can share her story and her father’s memory to all these people who don’t know her and to see there is life after tragedy,” he said.
Mundell said she’s been surprised by the worldwide reaction she has received to her wedding story, but it's allowed her to think about ways she can help others in similar situations.
“I’ve always wanted to do something to help law enforcement families that happen to go through tragedies, and I never could have imagined the possible opportunity would have come up through my wedding pictures,” she said.
“It started with one surprise to make my wedding day more special, and them showing me that they still thought about my dad and they were still there for my family, even though it’s been almost six years," she said.
“They’re always there for us. It really is a huge family. I’m so happy it’s gotten attention because it shows the good side of police and law enforcement.”
Follow TODAY.com writer Eun Kyung Kim on Twitter.