On Wednesday night, more than 20,000 law enforcement officers, family members and survivors attended the 27th annual Candlelight Vigil at the Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C. to honor those who have died in the line of duty.
This year, 273 names were added to the memorial walls. The names of 117 officers lost in 2014 joined the names of 156 officers who died in past year and were being recognized for the first time.
Craig Floyd, the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, spoke to those in attendance and reflected on a year that saw both a rise in line of duty deaths and scrutiny by the public.
"Over the past year, there has been a good deal of second-guessing and criticism directed at law enforcement," he said. "Some have questioned their compassion and commitment to the citizens they serve. Tonight we have a response to that question.
"There are 20,538 names on these memorial walls. Each of those selfless individuals chose to help those in need and put the welfare of others above their own."
Floyd said that the job of law enforcement officers are often taken for granted and that the risks and sacrifices endured by officers must be recognized.
"As one who has been privileged to meet thousands of officers and learn what police do, and why they do it, I am convinced that no profession is more committed to the basic principle that all lives matter. Tonight we honor the courage and salute the sacrifice made by these heroes of America, and their families."
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson recalled attending funerals for fallen officers in New York City and that no matter the incident, wakes and funerals for fallen officers share distinct similarities.
"There are things in common about a visit to a precinct or a wake after a police officer is killed," he said. "Everyone shows up, there's a lot of food and it's like a big wake -- a big family wake."
"The biggest strength of law enforcement is that it's a family. Every federal law enforcement agency, police department, highway patrol, sheriff's department or precinct is a family. A family that supports and protects each other in life, and grieves for and honors the memory of those in death."
Newly appointed U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch talked about the heroics of fallen officers who died in the line of duty last year and the obvious risks they faced everyday on the job.
"They knew the dangers of their profession; they recognized the risks that they faced. But they were determined to serve their fellow citizens, proud to represent their law enforcement family and undeterred in their mission to protect their communities," she said.
"The women and men whose names are forever engraved into these walls represent the best that America has to offer. And while the earthly lives of these brave and loving souls have been tragically extinguished, in the hearts of all those gathered here today, the light that they brought to the world burns on."