MOUNT VERNON, Wash. — An emotionally powerful welcome home was given Tuesday to Mount Vernon police officer Mike McClaughry, who was shot in the head and critically injured while on a call Dec. 15.
He was released from Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center on Tuesday.
It’s a miracle he survived his gunshot wound, but he paid a high price, losing his sight.
And two months after the shooting, the officer cannot fully remember the traumatic moment that changed his life.
“I remember a lot of passionate voices and a lot of concern,” McClaughry said Tuesday.
The bullet that pierced his head not only took his vision but he now suffers from short-term memory loss. Although the shooting took so much from him and his family, his spirit is still high.
“My children are growing and I won’t be able to see some of things that they are doing but that’s not going to keep me from participating,” McClaughry said.
The love from his wife, Linda, and daughter April got him through the hard times. He also got emotional crediting his parents for his inner strength.
“They gave me more than just genes, you know? They gave me courage,” McClaughry said.
That same courage helped him take the first step out of Harborview on Tuesday.
Fellow officers escorted the veteran every step of the way.
A procession of lights from various police departments honored the 61-year-old up Interstate 5 to Mount Vernon, where a huge crowd lined the streets waiting for McClaughry outside the Mount Vernon Police Department.
“He kind of took a bullet for the community,” Mount Vernon resident Roger Saben said.
“I am so happy you survived, we love you!” said one woman.
A colorful welcome complete with signs, balloons and flags and, when the hero finally drove by, the community clapped and chanted ‘Welcome Home.’
McClaughry couldn’t see them but he definitely felt their love. He told the crowd he wished he could see their faces because he knew they were smiling.
After he thanked the crowd, McClaughry went inside the police department for a private reception.
Then he finally got to go home on Valentine’s Day, which is also his 39th wedding anniversary.
His wife, Linda, says they have installed rails and other features inside their home to accommodate the officer’s vision loss.
McClaughry says his vision has slightly improved recently. He can see variations of brightness and some colors.
There is no guarantee his vision will get better but he is hoping and ready to work hard. As for a future in law enforcement, the officer called that a tough question, saying he would leave that up to God.