For two years, Utah has been without a permanent memorial to honor the men and women who gave their lives protecting the residents of the state.

In 1988, Utah dedicated its Utah Law Enforcement Memorial inside the state Capitol Rotunda. But renovation of the rotunda forced the memorial to be displaced in 2006.

Thursday, a big step in replacing the memorial was taken with a groundbreaking ceremony on the west lawn of the Capitol.

The new $1.3 million granite memorial will include three statues and plaques with the names of the documented 126 officers killed in the line of duty. Kennecott Copper donated 7,000 pounds of copper to make the plaques, statues and medallions that will be placed in the memorial.

"This is awesome. I'm really really excited," said Birgitta Wood, mother of West Jordan police officer Ron Wood, who at age 39 was shot and killed by a 17-year-old boy in 2002 near the entrance to a park near 2350 West and 7500 South.

Several widows of fallen Utah officers attended Thursday's groundbreaking, including Kelly Faraone, wife of Salt Lake City police Sgt. Jim Faraone, who was hit by a car and killed while helping with an accident on I-80. Ann House, wife of Department of Corrections Lt. Fred House, killed during the infamous Singer-Swapp standoff in Summit County in 1988, and her their daughter Janneke House, were also at the ceremony.

"This is very hard. It's been 20 years; it's really hard. But we don't want him forgotten. We appreciate when others remember because we didn't forget," Ann House said.

Many, like Lynette Gurr, wife of Roosevelt Police Chief Cecil Gurr, who was shot and killed while responding to a domestic dispute in 2001, and Carolyn Jones, wife of Garfield County Sheriff's deputy David Jones, who was shot and killed in 2003, say it's about time the new memorial became a reality.

The widows say they're grateful for the new memorial and ceremonies like the one Thursday because they don't want the public to forget what happened. For the widows themselves, Gurr said the ceremonies and fundraisers are opportunities for them to see each other.

"I enjoy getting together with the wives. We have a bond. We give each other support. No one else understands what we've been through," she said.

The widows also gave special praise to Utah Law Enforcement Memorial Board Historian Robert Kirby, who has been instrumental in researching names to be added to the memorial and for continuing to push to it a reality.

"We are not building just a memorial for those who have fallen but a church for those who will fall," Kirby told the small crowd of law enforcers, victim family members and dignitaries.

Kirby noted that Utahns had a "propensity for forgetting" and hoped the memorial would serve as a reminder to everyone that the laws passed by the Utah Legislature would mean nothing if not for law enforcement.

"Laws are meaningless unless there are men and women willing to go out and risk their lives to protect those laws," he said.

The memorial still needs a little more than $100,000 to fund its completion. Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder challenged all municipalities to make a donation before handing the memorial group a $25,000 check from the Salt Lake County Council.

After several groups performed the ceremonial turning over of dirt with shovels, a time capsule was lowered into the ground where the center of the memorial will eventually stand. The capsule is to be opened in 100 years. Many police badges, patches and letters from the family members of victims were placed inside the capsule. Some were addressed specifically to the officer who was killed.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new memorial is scheduled for Sept. 6.