Emotions were high as friends, family, law enforcement officers and elected officials came together Monday, May 16 to honor the fallen officers of Lee County.

The local Fallen Peace Officer’s Memorial ceremony was held at 10 a.m. at the Lee County Meeting Center in Opelika. A national ceremony was held Friday, May 13 in Washington, D.C.

“It’s an opportunity for us as a nation to be able to highlight and honor the sacrifices of law enforcement and to be able to take a moment to remind those family members of the fallen that their hero was not forgotten,” said Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall.

Of more than 600 names added to the national wall memorial in Washington, D.C., 21 were from Alabama, according to Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones. While the memorial commemorates officers killed in the line of duty, Jones said it also recognizes officers who died of other causes during their tenure.

 Six fallen officers were honored in the Lee County ceremony:

• Chief of Police Henry Dilmus Hart – Opelika Police Department

• Sheriff William S. “Buck” Jones — Lee County Sheriff’s Office

• Lt. Moitt Brenton Truitt Jr. — Opelika Police Department

• Deputy Sheriff James W. Anderson — Lee County Sheriff’s Office

• Sgt. Roger L. Motley — Opelika Police Department

• Officer William Ray Buechner Jr. — Auburn Police Department

Jones, Opelika Police Chief Shane Healey and Auburn Police Chief Cedric Anderson shared a few words on the fallen officers and their legacies.

A few shed tears as Anderson remembered Buechner, the county’s most recent fallen officer who was killed in May 2019 while responding to a domestic disturbance call.

“One of the reasons we remember him is because he was a dedicated, committed, very capable law enforcement professional,” Anderson said. “Others remember him because he was a lifelong friend who knew how to be a friend when others were in need of friendship … Even when we lose someone, the love we have for them never fades and never dies.”

Marshall also spoke to Buechner’s legacy, recognizing him for his professionalism and noting what many others also saw in him: a “light of hope, a light of happiness, as well as a protector.”

His mother, Suzy Buechner, came from Montgomery to attend this year’s ceremony and said she appreciates the efforts to remember her son and other fallen officers.

“This happens every year, and we just appreciate all they do and to not forget the fallen officers, so it means a lot to us,” she said. “It’s real special—not easy every time, but we just appreciate it so much.

“He loved his job. He told me that he found his spot in the world, which is good for a mother to hear when you worry about your child. Are they going to find what they want to do and love? He says he found it here. He always had a smile on his face … he had a good heart and he just wanted to help people out.”

President John F. Kennedy issued an executive order in 1962 to recognize May 15 as National Peace Officers Memorial Day each year. He also proclaimed the week of May 15 as National Police Week. The event is “dedicated to recognize all of the men and women who served their communities in law enforcement and made the ultimate sacrifice in service to their fellow citizens,” Jones added.

The national memorial wall is located in Washington, D.C.