Lauren Gross holds her son, Ryan, on Monday while looking at the name of her late husband, Hancock County Deputy Sheriff Luke Gross, at the Police Memorial in Augusta. Ryan was 13 when his father was killed while investigating a car accident Sept. 23, 2021, in Trenton. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

AUGUSTA —  The 88 officers whose names are etched into the state’s monument for officers killed in the line of duty each knew that one day they could be called upon to sacrifice their lives in answering the call to help and protect others.

That’s according to Jared Mills, Augusta’s police chief and president of the Maine Chiefs of Police Association, who spoke Monday to dozens of law enforcement officers from across the state, as well as family members and other attendees at an annual memorial to the state’s law officers killed in the line of duty.

“Those who we honor today made that choice willingly — that is why their ultimate sacrifice means so much,” Mills said. “They served and sacrificed for a purpose far greater than themselves.”

Hancock County Sheriff’s Deputy Luke Gross, 44, was added to the monument this year. Gross was killed Sept. 23, 2021, while investigating a car crash in Trenton. The 18-year veteran of the force was struck and killed by a passing pickup truck while he was picking up debris in the road.

Hancock County Sheriff’s Deputy Luke Gross was killed while investigating a car accident on Sept. 23, 2021, in Trenton. Photo courtesy of Hancock County Sheriff’s Department

Gross was known for his sense of adventure, kindness, and as a great father to the kids he and his wife have: Lauren, Alissa and Ryan. He was also known for helping in the community including as a camp counselor, a school volunteer and community fundraiser, according to Michael Sauschuck, commissioner of the state Department of Public Safety.

Sauschuck told the dozens of law enforcement officers who gathered at the state’s memorial that they, like 99% of other officers, likely answered “I want to help people,” when asked during their job interviews why they wanted to be a law enforcement officer.

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Even knowing providing that help could put them in harm’s way and even endanger their own lives.

“I want to thank Luke for being that officer, who was always willing to do extra, always willing to step up to the plate, always willing to take care of business,” Sauschuck said of Gross. “I want to thank each and every one of you for the work that you do. Please, be safe, take care of yourselves, take care of your loved ones. Be proud, be proud of who you are and why you do what you do.”

Gov. Janet Mills said sometimes, on a quiet evening, she visits the memorial down State Street from the Blaine House, and traces the names of some of the 88 officers etched into it with her hand. “And I think of their sacrifice to others,” Mills said. “And I think especially about all those they left behind.”

“In a thousand daily acts of heroism, unheralded in their time, these officers found lost children, foiled thefts, protected our most vulnerable, solved heinous crimes, broke up fights, rescued victims, protected the least of us and inspired the very best in us,” Mills said. “The good deeds these people performed routinely, like a day in the life of every man and woman in uniform here today. Done with no expectation of honor or gratitude. These deeds are at the very heart of Maine, and the heart of our democracy. These are the deeds and heroic souls we should remember. Remember the individuals whose names and lives are enshrined on this wall.”

Gross’ family attended the ceremony and his wife Lauren placed a wreath on the memorial. Alissa leaned her head on her mom’s shoulder as the Maine State Police Pipes & Drums corps played “Amazing Grace.”

Massachusetts State Police Sgt. Mike Crowley blows taps Monday during the annual gathering to remember fallen police officers at the Maine Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial in Augusta. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

Jared Mills said he wanted Gross’ family to know “we will always be there for them.”

Added to a stone bench next to the memorial wall was the name of the late Darrell Malone Sr., Houlton’s former police chief, who died last year following a lengthy illness. Jared Mills and Edward Toman, executive director of the Maine Chiefs of Police Association, said Malone was a driving force in creating the memorial to honor Maine’s fallen law enforcement officers.

The Rev. John Skehan, in his benediction, prayed for help to never forget the ultimate sacrifice of the officers honored at the monument, and that current officers be protected.

“We entrust to your care and your protection, all who are currently involved in protecting our streets, our homes, our cities and our towns,” he prayed. “Keep them safe, help them know their duty, their willingness to enter harm’s way is appreciated by us, their fellow citizens. And may they return home safely to their families each day. May the souls of all fallen police officers, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.”

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