Trooper Palmer returns home to Montana, and a hero’s welcome

It’s not the end of the saga, but the beginning of a new chapter in the recovery story for Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Wade Palmer.

Palmer’s medical condition was in significantly better standing on his return to Montana Wednesday than when he was taken by emergency flight to University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City after suffering multiple gunshot wounds in an ambush atop Evaro Hill on March 15.

Thousands of friends, family, law enforcement colleagues and strangers welcomed Palmer with a procession as miraculous as has been his recovery. The well-wishers lined miles and miles of highway from the Northstar Aviation hangar at Missoula International Airport, through Missoula and along Highway 93 to the trooper’s home in Stevensville.

“I want to stress just how incredible the individuals in law enforcement, first responders, fire service, individuals at the hospital there, all the staff and indeed the entire state of Utah responded to Trooper Palmer’s needs and his family’s needs,” Montana Attorney General Tim Fox said. “Incredible ways that I wish I could describe them all, but it’s almost impossible to fathom. If you had been there the day that I was first there, when Wade was admitted to the hospital, and saw the condition he was in and you see him now, you would absolutely be amazed at the progress he has made.”

Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Wade Palmer, as he left Salt Lake City on Wednesday. (University of Utah Hospital)

The turnout for Palmer’s procession through Missoula and Stevensville was heartwarming, according to the head of MHP.

“Today, coming back down Broadway, where we left back on March 15th, to see the people standing out there for a little impromptu motorcade. To see the silent majority standing there alongside Broadway today when we came back in is very very heartwarming to see. I’m just really glad he’s home,” said Colonel Tom Butler, chief of the Highway Patrol.

Onlookers say Palmer was all smiles for his return trip.

“When we walked into that hospital room today, Wade was smiling ear to ear,” Fox said. “He knew he was going to be reunited with his girls, that he was going to be home, that he was going to see his trooper colleagues and his friends and see familiar faces and places. And while he couldn’t communicate with speech, his smile alone and his upbeat attitude swelled my heart, and I’m sure everyone else’s in the room.”

Highway Patrol Trooper Wade Palmer and his wife Lindsey at the University of Utah Hospital Wednesday, shortly before their departure for Montana. (University of Utah Hospital and Montana Highway Patrol)