Today marks the 23rd anniversary of the dedication of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. Located in Washington DC's Judiciary Square, the memorial bears the names of 20,267 federal, state, and local officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice while serving their communities.
The memorial was officially dedicated on October 15, 1991 by former President George H.W. Bush. A phrase from his groundbreaking ceremony speech at the Memorial is engraved in the southwest corner under a beautiful lion statue:
"Carved on these walls is the story of America, of a continuing quest to preserve both democracy and decency, and to protect a national treasure that we call the American dream."
Designed by architect Davis Buckley, the memorial sits on three acres of federal park land. The grounds boast plush carpets of grass, 60,000 plants, and 128 trees. More than 10,000 daffodils bloom each April and provide bursts of color at the site.
The memorial contains a central plaza with an intricate paving pattern and a bronze replica of the Memorial Fund logo: a blue shield with a red rose resting diagonally across the shield. An entrance for the Judiciary Square Metro is at the northern end, and a soothing reflecting pool is centered within the entrance plaza at the southern end.
The memorial has two curving, 304-foot-long blue-gray marble walls that circle the site. Engraved on the walls are the names of more than 20,000 officers who were killed in the line of duty throughout U.S. history. The first known American law enforcement fatality occurred in upstate New York in 1791. Sheriff Cornelius Hogeboom was shot while serving a "writ of ejectment." The Memorial is a soothing and peaceful place for loved ones to honor and remember their fallen officer.
Two tree-lined "pathways of remembrance" border the Memorial's park. Each pathway entrance is adorned with a group of statues sculpted by Raymond Kaskey. They consist of an adult lion watching over two cubs. These powerful bronze statues symbolize the protective role of peace officers and convey the strength, courage, and valor that are hallmarks of those who serve and protect. Underneath each lion, a quote is carved that reflects the daily service and sacrifice of law enforcement officers.
"The national monument to fallen officers stands as a reminder of the service and sacrifice that thousands of men and women have made in the name of public safety. They put the needs of their community and our country over their own. We truly owe these heroes a debt of gratitude," stated Memorial Fund Chairman and CEO Craig W. Floyd.
While most memorials do not change, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial is, unfortunately, never complete. New names of fallen officers are added to the monument each spring. Each passing year finds more past and present officers who have been killed in the line of duty. The Memorial Fund holds a Candlelight Vigil ceremony to officially dedicate the new names each year on May 13th, part of National Police Week activities.
When the memorial was dedicated, it included 12,664 names. Over the past 23 years, the names of 7,603 fallen officers have been added and each name has been meticulously etched by Jim Lee and Kirk Brockman from EngraveWrite. In 2010, the memorial underwent a re-engraving project to keep the names engraved on the walls pristine. The Police Unity Tour generously funded this massive project.
In addition to National Police Week events and the annual Candlelight Vigil, many other events are held at the memorial including numerous wreath-laying events, academy class visits, 5K runs, student and group tours, and countless other events. During nice weather, you'll find many visitors at the memorial having lunch or simply taking a quiet break from their busy schedules.
As the memorial celebrates 23 years of honoring law enforcement—especially our fallen heroes—we are continually reminded of Vivian Eney's quote engraved on the northwest corner: "It is not how these officers died that made them heroes, it is how they lived."
More information is available at: www.LawMemorial.org.
About the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund
Established in 1984, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund is a non-profit organization dedicated to telling the story of American law enforcement and making it safer for those who serve. The Memorial Fund is now working to create the National Law Enforcement Museum, which will tell the story of law enforcement through high-tech, interactive exhibitions, historical artifact,s and extensive educational programming. For more information, visit www.LawMemorial.org.