Thursday, the Alabama legislature held a rare joint session to present the Legislative Medal of Honor for Law Enforcement to the Alabama law enforcement officer who demonstrated the greatest bravery in service to their fellow Alabamians. This year, there were a rare two medals awarded.
Coffee County Sheriff’s Deputy Jace Holley responded to a fatal car crash in June. When Office Holley arrived on the scene of the head on collision he entered a burning van not once, not twice, but three times to rescue children from the flames.
Two other people died in the wreck.
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) was in attendance Thursday’s ceremony.
“Deputy Holley, you did what so many of (us) try to do and that’s protect our young,” said Governor Ivey.
Holley is a veteran who has served multiple tours of duty in the Middle East in the military police. He currently is a staff sergeant in the Alabama National Guard.
In the Joint House Resolution honoring Holley, the committee wrote: “Deputy Holley demonstrated immense courage, diligence, and quick response in a life-threatening situation; his loyalty and unwavering commitment to protect and serve the residents of Coffee County were evidenced through his willingness to make the quick and proper response in order to protect the lives of others.”
The Legislative Medal of Honor was also posthumously awarded to Mobile Police Officer Justin Billa, who was slain attempting to arrest a man, who is believed to have murdered his ex-wife. The suspect killed himself after killing Billa.
Billa’s name was added to the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington along with the other 157 law enforcement officers killed in 2018.
“Deputy Billa will be remembered for his immense bravery and his unwavering commitment to protect and serve others; he is truly deserving as a recipient of the 2019 Legislative Medal of Honor for Law Enforcement,” the committee wrote in the resolution honoring Billa.
Attorney General Steve Marshall (R) was also in attendance.
Marshall said on social media, “I was proud to join the Legislature and Governor Ivey today at a joint-session ceremony to award two Alabama heroes, Coffee County Sheriff’s Deputy Jace Holley and fallen Mobile Police Officer Justin Billa, the Legislative Medal of Honor for Law Enforcement.”
Economic developer Nicole Jones attended and told the Alabama Political Reporter, “The Legislative Medal of Honor ceremony was a beautiful culmination of the events held throughout Alabama during National Police Week. Our hearts are forever indebted to those who place their lives on the line every day and to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.”
State Representative Howard Sanderford, R-Huntsville is the chair of the Medal of Honor Committee and the sponsor of the Joint House resolutions honoring Billa and Holley.
Sanderford said that 11 percent of the House of Representative are current or retired law enforcement, including Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia.