Arizona Peace Officers Memorial remembers those who lost their lives, while on the job

In the United States, more than 900,000 law enforcement officers put their lives on the line every day.

Sometimes, when they hug their loved ones goodbye in the morning, they don't return home.

The State of Arizona has a special place that honors officers who make the ultimate sacrifice. Unfortunately, the list of officers honored there grows longer each year.

Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza, located at the Arizona State Capitol, is best known for its war memorials, especially the one honoring those who died aboard the USS Arizona.

"Unless you've been through that tragedy, it's hard for people to understand," said Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich.

Just west of the Arizona's anchor is a memorial to those who served closer to home: the Arizona Peace Officers Memorial. On it are the names of every police officer killed in the state, starting from 1865, when Yuma County Sheriff Cornelius Sage was killed in a shootout.

Also on the memorial are five men killed in 2016.

"Every year, we do a service," said Brnovich. "We hope that there comes a day you don't have to add names to the wall."

Brnovich oversees the board managing the monument.

"These are folks I'm sure when they woke up that morning, they had no idea that they weren't going to see their friends and family again," said Brnovich.

On top of the list of names is a statue of an Arizona lawman, with his foot propped up on a rock, his head bowed, his hat in his hand. Many people think the sculpture is that of Wyatt Earp, the infamous Tombstone lawman. Actually, the inspiration for this sculpture was Gordon Shelby, a veteran of the Department of Public Safety and Phoenix police.

"By etching their names here in stone, we want to make sure their memory is eternal, that they live forever," said Brnovich.

Etched in stone most recently are five new names, all of whom died in 2016:

"Being here, you can't help but be emotional," said Brnovich. "This is one of the things we do that is bittersweet."

Bittersweet for certain, but anyone who sleeps safe at night thanks to law officers from every corner of Arizona should always remember.

"If we can honor them in any way, having their names on this memorial where the survivors can come and see their loved ones name, not only to honor them in death but remember them in life and what they lived for, and what they stood for," said Brnovich.

An estimated 253 peace officers have died in Arizona since the 1880s, and 27 K-9 police dogs have died in the state.

There is also a memorial to K-9 officers at Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza.