CHILHOWIE, Va. (WDBJ7) - It's one thing for people to say how much they loved Trooper Lucas Dowell. It's another thing to show it. The community showed their love Saturday at Chilhowie Christian Church for Trooper Lucas Dowell's memorial service, with more than 1,500 attendees.
"And Lucas said, 'you know I wanted to do a better job of making the people I love know and feel how much I loved them,'" explained Erica Dowell, sister of Trooper Lucas Dowell, in font of the crowd gathered before her. "...I believe even more strongly now that what I said to him then was the truth. I said. 'Lucas, you already do that.'"
Hundreds of officers from across the country joined Trooper Lucas Dowell's family and friends, to say goodbye and to say thank you.
"I know Lucas' actions that night saved lives," said Colonel Gary Settle, Virginia State Police Superintendent speaking on the night Dowell died. "Without a doubt, he saved lives of his tact team members."
Speakers that included family, friends and supervisors spoke confidently on how much Dowell loved his job.
"You see Lucas didn't go into that house in Cumberland County on his own. He went in with his team," Settle said. "And it was his team that carried him out."
Though tears fell, friends knew they couldn't speak of their smiling friend without also laughing.
"He kinda interrupted me," said Sergeant Mathew Riley telling a story about his friend. "He leaned forward and he smiled, squinted his eyes and said, 'Look, let's just get down to the heart of this thing. Do I get to drive a tank?'"
Friends said Dowell was quick to deliver a smile, a joke and a quote from his favorite movie Saving Private Ryan.
"He looked at all of his teammates and he said, and I quote, 'Keep the sand out of your weapons, keep your actions clear and I'll see you on the beach,'" Riley said to a room full of laughter.
And so as they lay their friend to rest, Dowell rides away in a tank he was determined to drive - leaving his friends behind to quote a brother in blood, a brother in arms, and a friend to an entire community.
"The night that Lucas passed away, I went back to that drawing because I couldn't sleep," Riley explained of a gift Dowell's team had once given him. "And I read what Lucas had written me in 2016. He said, 'Matt, it's been a wild ride. You were the best choice for team leader. And remember, keep your actions clear, I'll see you on the beach.'"