March 16, 2010

Memorial service honors Maine's fallen officers



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Staff photo by Andy Molloy CHANGING THE COLORS: Rev. Kathryn Braestrup hugs Maine State Police Lt. Gary Wright following the annual service held for fallen police officers in Augusta Thursday morning. Braestrup addressed the crowed attending the event about surviving the loss of a loved one. Her husband, Maine State Trooper Drew Griffith, died in the line of duty.

Blethen Maine News Service

AUGUSTA — A common thread bound more than 50 uniformed men and women Thursday at the Maine Law Enforcement Memorial in Augusta: They were there to honor fallen brothers and sisters.

''This really is a family,'' said Douglas Bracy, York police chief and president of the Maine Chiefs of Police Association. ''This is a profession where we take care of each other.''

Officers from all over Maine stood to honor officers from the Maine State Police and community departments, sheriffs offices and the Maine Warden Service who have died, particularly those who died in the line of duty.

The Rev. Kate Braestrup, chaplain of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, spoke of being a survivor. Her husband, Trooper Drew Griffith, was killed in a car accident while on duty in 1996. Her memoir about the loss, ''Here If You Need Me,'' was on The New York Times Bestseller List last fall.

At the suggestion of her eldest son, Braestrup sent the American flag that had been draped over her husband's coffin to the New York City Police Department after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, to show her support for the officers still trying to recover remains of the victims.

''It was hard for me to let go of that,'' she said. ''But my son said, 'This is what Dad would've done for those people.' ''

The flag was returned five years ago. Braestrup unfolded it Thursday and flew it on the flagpole above the memorial.

''This is Drew's flag,'' she said to the crowd, some quietly wiping away tears. ''He's waving above us. They all are.''

Cherrie Bonney, of Norway, understood. Her husband, Auburn police officer Rodney ''Rocky'' Bonney, died in 1981 while trying to rescue a teenager from an ice-filled river. The youth died along with Bonney.

''You think every year that it'll get easier and the pain will finally go away,'' Cherrie Bonney said after the ceremony. ''But it never does.''

Eighty-two names are engraved on the gray stone memorial next to the State House. Two more will be added to honor officers who died in the past year: Sgt. Robert Johnsey, 37, of the Portland Police Department, who died this month in an accidental shooting; and Deputy Mark Schade, 42, of the Waldo County Sheriff's Office, who died in April in a diving accident.

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