NAUGATUCK, Conn. (WTNH) — It is a long road to recovery for one Naugatuck police lieutenant. He was injured in a hit-and-run back in November, but is committed to returning to the job he loves.

“I was bounced off that car like I was roadkill,” recounted Lt. Mark Pettinicchi of the Naugatuck Police Department. “He didn’t have any hesitation, he just kept on going.”

Pettinicchi was struck by a car while working a private duty road job on South Main Street. Investigators believe the driver was fleeing from police after a shoplifting call at a nearby Walmart.

“As luck would have it, this is what transpired in the last five minutes of that assignment,” Pettinicchi said.

The 19-year veteran of the department is now back home, adjusting to this new normal.

“For me, seeing him in pain was probably the hardest thing for me through this journey,” said Michele Pettinicchi, his wife.

His family, department, and community have been by his side through it all.

“I didn’t believe it; I couldn’t believe it,” Pettinicchi said. “Something like this could happen, someone could be so cruel.”

As the recovery process continues, Pettinicchi is using this time to get his message out there.

“I truly feel I can use this opportunity to explain to the masses that you may see the uniform, but you don’t see the man or woman inside of it,” he said. “We’re out there to do a job, to do what’s expected of us: to keep order, to keep law, to enforce the law. We’re not out there to do anything that is not the right thing to do.”

Both he and his wife are hoping more people will join the force, making the commitment to protect and serve. 

“My two sons wanted to be police officers and now, they do not,” Michele said. “It’s changing and it’s a shame because these are good men and women. They go out there and they protect and serve our community. I don’t know where our community would be without them.”

Meanwhile, Pettinicchi remains focused on getting better and stronger each day.

“When I start load bearing on top of my joints that have been rebuilt, that will be the deciding factor,” Pettinicchi said. “Is it something strong enough to hold me? Can I sustain the work that I’ve been accustomed to do and love?”

The goal is to put the uniform back on once again.

“I’m hoping; I’m working for that goal,” he said. “I don’t want to say goodbye just yet!”