By Andrea Lucia

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DALLAS (CBS11) – Wayne Gittens remembers the moment he decided to join the Dallas Police Department.

Chief David Brown was on television after the deaths of five officers in an ambush last July in downtown.

“We’re hiring. Get off that protest line and put an application in,” Brown challenged the community.

“Right then and there, it’s what I wanted to do,” said Gittens.

For the first time since leaving the military, he said he felt a sense of purpose.

“I’m willing to give my life for this country, if I had to,” said Gittens. “I’m also gonna live for this country, too.”

A larger class than most, the 41 recruits who began training last week were hired amid a surge of applications following last year’s tragedy.

With a show of hands, many indicated they were even more determined to join the force after the tragedy last July.

“We all know about the ambush. We all know it’s a risky profession to be in,” said recruit Claire Swenson.

Swenson was in St. Louis in July, when she saw a swell of support for Dallas police.

“Seeing the community reaction… made my choice in Dallas even stronger,” she said.

She said she knows being a police officer could make her a target, but she won’t let that stop her.

“You can hate me because I’m a girl. You can hate me because I’m a cop. It doesn’t matter. There’s always something,” said Swenson.

She’d rather live by the words of the former police chief.

“If you see a problem in the community, come apply and come change it,” she said.

The class is set to graduate this September.

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