Arizona police officer, paralyzed for 14 years, stands for national anthem

Bill Weigt was wounded in the line of duty in 2005.

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By Rachel Paula Abrahamson

An image of a paralyzed police officer standing for the national anthem is bringing people to tears.

William "Bill" Weigt was photographed at the opening ceremony for the Special Olympics Arizona on Friday. In the picture that has gone viral on Facebook, he is seen presenting the American flag with the help of a high-tech wheelchair.

"I'd been wanting to stand for the national anthem for 14 years," Weigt, an investigator at Arizona's Peoria Police Department and former United States infantry soldier, told TODAY. "I was a little overwhelmed at first, but it was so exciting."

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Afterwards, the Olympians — including Weigt's nephew Andrew — surrounded Weigt for hugs and photos.

"That was probably the most special thing," Weigt said.

Officer Bill Weigt with his nephew Andrew, who won two gold medals in swimming at the Special Olympics Arizona. Courtesy of William Weigt

Weigt, who became paralyzed after he was shot while chasing a suspect in 2005, kept it together until he got in his car after the games. That's when the magnitude of what had happened sunk in, and he became emotional.

Comments continue to pour in on the Peoria Police Department's Facebook page, and Weigt is reading all of them.

"Not enough heart emojis in the world for this one. God bless!" wrote one person. Added another, "Your determination and will to overcome your tragedy, is more than any words I can write."

Weigt is grateful to be a beacon of hope for others with disabilities. His life is better than he could have ever imagined in part due to his Permobil F5 power chair, which he calls "a blessing." The mobility aid allows him to go from sit-to-stand or lay-to-stand.

"I had lot of spasms and pain," he said. "Being able to change positions helps with that. I feel good."

He feels good on the inside, too.

"Of course, I would like to go and get my body back, but I can't, so I make the best of what I've got," he said. "And I have a really great life.