It was such a short farewell speech after such an arduous journey that began nine months ago for Casper Police Officer Jacob Carlson.

"I appreciate everyone in this room," Carlson said at his retirement party at the Central Dispatch Center on Thursday.

"I'm surprised at how many people actually showed up; I figured it would be about 10 of us," he told scores of law enforcement officers and city officials.

"I love everyone. I love this community and this department," Carlson said. "My ugly mug is not going anywhere, so hopefully I'll see you around town."

The journey that led to his retirement started about 1:30 p.m. on a clear spring day on May 6, when Carlson and officer Randi Garrett responded to an apparently innocuous incident.

Neighbors said they saw a three-year-old driving a car in a vacant lot in the 1400 block of Fairdale. An adult male was sitting in the front seat and another child was in the car.

Garrett and Carlson talked the man, later identified as David Wolosin, who got out of the car. Wolosin drew a gun, began firing, and hit Carlson six times with another bullet hitting his gun. Garrett returned fire, killing Wolosin.

The Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation and the Natrona County District Attorney's Office investigated the case and cleared Carlson and Garrett. It remains unknown why Wolosin opened fire.

Carlson spent more than a month in the Wyoming Medical Center, endured numerous surgeries, and received more than 100 units of blood.

Hundreds of people gathered in Conwell Park to wish him well, and he and the department received nationwide encouragement.

Carlson was released from the hospital on June 12.

On July 30, the community held a rally during which he and Garrett received medals of valor.

In August, a mix-up in communications occurred among the City of Casper, Police Chief Keith McPheeters, and Carlson and his attorney about whether Carlson would be returning to work and an extension of a medical leave of absence.

Carlson said he decided not to retire. In December, he went on a ride-along with a friend from the department and had decided to retire by the time the shift was over.

Earlier this month, he decided to retire for the good of his recovery and for his family -- wife Tiffany and their three-year-old son Zane, he said after the ceremony.

Zane Carlson plays with dinosaurs as his mother Tiffany Carlson watches.                                         Tom Morton, Townsquare Media

"What my future looks like is a little unknown," he said. "I'm thinking about taking a few months and figuring out what I want to do."

Carlson may do some contract work for the police department, and he's considering taking business classes at Casper College.

Carlson said he's gaining weight and recovering, but will continue to grapple with health issues and post traumatic stress, he said.

During the ceremony, Capt. Steve Schulz said Carlson, 27, was sworn in on April 15, 2015, which also happened to be his birthday.

The subsequent tragedy and recovery will make an impact on the community and the police department for years to come, Schulz said. "I want you to know that you will forever be in the family of blue in the Casper Police Department."

Police Lt. Ben Mattila said he hoped he would be the last person in the department to ever receive an International Association of Chiefs of Police DuPont Kevlar Survivors Club award. But he presented one to Carlson, who is now among the 3,000 officers whose lives were saved by the body armor. Mattila received his award after he and other officers went to the front door a house in east Casper in February 2010 where Michael Lesher allowed the house of his ex-wife to be filled with gas, blew it up and killed himself. Mattila's body armor blocked the shrapnel from the explosion.

Capt. Shane Chaney said Carlson epitomized what it means to be a police officer with the characteristics of pride, honor, commitment and courage.

Chaney thanked Carlson, saying he felt sad and nostalgic, and closed with the Irish blessing:

"May the road rise to meet you. May the wind be ever at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face. And the rains fall soft upon your fields. May God hold you ever in the palm of His hand until we meet again."