Virginia trooper Jamie Lawson, who was injured April 9 in the line of duty, greets his son shortly after arriving by helicopter Saturday in Gate City.
GATE CITY — A Virginia state trooper who was injured in the line of duty received an emotional homecoming Saturday as nearly 1,000 local residents and members of law enforcement gathered at the Gate City High School football field to welcome him back.
James C. Lawson, 41, was transported by Virginia State Police helicopter from the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, where he was being treated for spinal cord injuries, to his hometown of Gate City.
Lawson described the turnout Saturday as overwhelming and also thanked those who came to greet him. Many in attendance showed their support for the 13-year state police veteran by wearing "Team Lawson" T-shirts that were handed out prior to his arrival.
"I had a long hard road, but I made it back thanks to the prayers and support you have given me," Lawson told those in attendance. "You know there's no place like home."
Lawson later added: "You don't know how many friends you really have until you see this. I just want to thank everybody for their support, my department has been supportive the whole way, and my family and friends... I don't really have the words to address my true feelings."
His wife, Aimee Lawson, said support shown by the community Saturday was emblematic of what she has witnessed since the April 9 high-speed pursuit and wreck that injured her husband.
"When I've been home and back to work, the community has responded this way the whole time," Amy Lawson said. "So I've experienced this the whole time, but to see him experience it for the first time... it's overwhelming. I think he knew the support was there, but I don't think until you actually see it, you don't understand how much support this small town can have."
Lawson's flight arrived at the field shortly after 1 p.m. to a roar of cheering and applause. Members of law enforcement from throughout the region, including agencies from both Tennessee and Virginia, also lined the field and turned on their sirens and blue lights as the helicopter carrying Lawson made its final approach before landing.
As Lawson exited the helicopter, he was met by his wife, and two of his children.
"The kids are just so excited to have him back," Aimee Lawson said. "That was the best part of the day."
After seeing his family, Lawson addressed the crowd, which included U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith and state Del. Terry Kilgore, before taking time to pose for pictures and speak with his friends and colleagues.
Gate City Mayor Frances Perry also took the opportunity to declare the day "Jamie Lawson Day" to commemorate the return of the town's assistant fire chief.
Gate City Volunteer Fire Department Chief Jeff Brickey said members of the force were excited to have their assistant chief back and were ready to help him and his family out in any way possible.
"It's great and we're so glad that he's back," Brickey said. "We look forward to his continued recovery and having him around the fire department and working with us and the community, so we're really excited about that."We're also here for him all the way."