By Debbie Gregory.
Former Camp Pendleton Marine Christopher Lawrence is working the beat as a rookie Chula Vista police officer, defying the odds that many military amputees who want to continue to serve face.
In 2007, Lawrence served in Operation Iraqi Freedom. As he crossed a bridge to the mainland, insurgents watched from a distance and detonated an IED placed beneath it. Lawrence was badly injured, and his right leg was shattered, which led to a below the knee amputation.
Lawrence wanted to stay in the Marines. When that didn’t work out, his next choice was law enforcement. Four police departments turned him down before Chula Vista said yes.
Chula Vista Police Chief Roxana Kennedy said she was silently rooting for the Purple Heart recipient as he went through the police academy.
“I thought he was so inspiring,” Kennedy said. “I figured if he went through the process, and he could pass all the testing, I’d be more than willing to give him a shot.”
It’s a small brotherhood of injured servicemembers who have succeeded in either staying in the active-duty military or transitioned to civilian law enforcement led by Army Capt. David Rozelle, who broke ground in 2005 when he became the first military amputee to go back into a combat zone.
“I have never met a more abled-body person in my life,” said Chula Vista Police Chief Roxana Kennedy said of Laurence, “The power of his attitude and character and the strength in his heart easily overcome the physical challenges. His life and the challenges he has overcome are an inspiration to others.”
“Most of the time, people are looking at the badge and uniform saying, ‘Thank God you are here to help.’ Or, they are unhappy to see us, because they did something wrong,” Lawrence said.
More than 1,700 service members have lost limbs in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, according to Military Health System figures.