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At National Police Week, a grim remembrance

Sunday - 5/11/2014, 4:56pm  ET

National Police Week (WTOP/Dick Uliano)
More than 20,000 law enforcement officers and their families gathered Sunday for National Police Week.
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WASHINGTON -- A throaty rumble of motorcycles echoed throughout Judiciary Square in downtown Washington.

The riders, most of them law officers, parked their bikes and walked solemnly to the granite walls etched with names.

Then, as bagpipes droned - a wreath was laid at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, formally opening National Police Week.

The week "is really to honor our fallen law enforcement officers, those officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the performance of duty to protect our communities and our families," says Steve Groeninger, senior communications director for the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. "This year, we're adding 286 officers to the walls of the memorial."

The names, to be added Tuesday evening in a candlelight vigil, include those of 100 officers killed in the line of duty in 2013 and 186 fallen officers from past years.

More than 20,000 law enforcement officers and their families and friends gathered in Washington for the event. Some have come from other nations.

"We have a lot of international visitors, we have Bobbies, we have folks from Ireland [and] Australia," Groeninger says.

Jason, Justin, James and Luke Edwards of Taylor, Michigan are among the city's visitors attending National Police Week.

The four brothers stand out in their black t-shirts lettered with the name Matthew Edwards and the date 7-23-10. They've come to honor their cousin Matthew, an officer of the Taylor Police Department shot down in the line of duty at the age of 31 while he was responding to reports of a burglary in progress in July 2010.

"Everybody on this wall has a family and had somebody who loved them and cared about them," Jason says. "To know that they're not forgotten is really important to us."

Speaking of his slain family member, Jason says, "we grew up together we were more like brothers."

Besides Tuesday's candlelight vigil, the week's activities will include a "Top Cop" awards ceremony, honor guard competition and wreath layings.

Groeninger says the memorial, which includes walkways, granite walls and a reflecting pool, helps families of slain officers process the grief they've suffered.

"Folks will talk about 'I go to the burial, I go the cemetery and I'm depressed. I come to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, I touch his or her name and I'm uplifted because their lives are celebrated here,'" Groeninger says.

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