An estimated 20,000 people gathered at the National Police Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C. Monday night for the 25th Annual Candlelight Vigil.
"At this monument 22 years ago, there were just over 12,500 names on these walls. As a special tribute to those men and women, we read each of their names in a final roll call of honor that lasted 24 hours." Craig Floyd, Chairman and CEO of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, said during the ceremony. "Every year since, we've given that same honor to every name that has been added to this national treasure."
The NLEOMF maintains the memorial, hosts the annual candlelight vigil and serves as a principal organizer of National Police Week each May.
The names of 321 law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty -- including 120 who died in 2012 -- were formally dedicated on the memorial's walls during the vigil.
The other 201 names "had slipped through the cracks of history and were just recently discovered by memorial research staff and volunteers across the country," according to Floyd.
The national monument now contains the names of 19,981 fallen law enforcement officers.
"Tonight, we remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice in law enforcement service. And we also pay tribute to the surviving family members who were left behind," he said. "Behind every name on these walls are stories and memories that burn brightly.
"Tonight and every night -- stories that inspire us and memories that cannot be extinguished. We will always remember these extraordinary American heroes."
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, National President of the Concerns of Police Survivors Madeline Neumann and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder participated in the annual tribute to fallen officers.
There was also a special recognition of representatives of Boston-area agencies that have been part of the Marathon bombing manhunt and investigation.
Superintendent Timothy Alben of the Massachusetts State Police, Superintendent Willie Gross of the Boston Police Department and Chief Ed Deveau of the Watertown Police Department were all in attendance.
Napolitano, who has attended every vigil since taking office and helped lead the groundbreaking with Holder in October 2010, shared her gratitude for efforts of the nation's officers.
"We come here, in our Nation's Capital among these silent stone walls, to pay our respects to these officers and honor those who have given their lives so that we remain safe," she said. "They are heroes, patriots, role models who did not flinch at the first sign of danger -- but like all law enforcement -- acted to protect us even though their lives were on the line."
Holder echoed Napolitano's sentiments, promising that the sacrifices made by the fallen officers will always be remembered.
"I want to assure you that the courage, the fidelity, and the heroic final actions of our fallen officers will never be forgotten," he said. "Every day -- in cities, rural areas, and tribal communities across the country -- these individuals stood on the front lines of our nation's fight against crime and violence. Each faced uncertain dangers, and a diverse array of threats, every time they put on their badge and uniform. But they refused to back down."
Last year saw the fewest line-of-duty deaths since the 1950s, and while Holder said he is encouraged, he stress that the number is still too high.
"The fact remains that even a single loss is devastating and unacceptable," he said. "Even a single act of violence against a law enforcement officer is one too many."
As she spoke to those in attendance, Neumann -- whose husband Keith, an Essex County, N.J. patrolman, was shot and killed during a drug raid Aug. 3, 1989 -- remembered her very first Candlelight
"As I look out at this crowd tonight, I am reminded of another candlelight vigil. My first candlelight vigil the year my husband was honored," she said. "I sat where you are sitting, except there were no memorial walls, there were no bronze lions, there were no stone walkways, and there was no reflecting pool."
The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial had its groundbreaking just months before her visit.
"We sat on chairs placed over newly-turned dirt, surrounded by chain-link fence," she said. "Sitting there listening to the speeches and hearing the names read, it was hard to imagine what this memorial would look like."
Afterwards, she saw a model of what the memorial would one day look like.
"When I was here for the dedication in October of 1991, this site was miraculously transformed into an exact duplicate of that model I had seen a year-and-a-half earlier."
Officer.com will be covering all of the events leading up to and during National Police Week, which runs from May 12-18. For full coverage, Click Here.