AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - The Maine Army National Guard says that Lt. Col. Michael Backus, of Wilton, died unexpectedly Monday while performing his duties at Camp Keyes in Augusta.

The National Guard is still investigating the cause of his death.

Backus graduated Mt. Blue High School in 1986 and then moved on to graduate from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

In the Maine Army National Guard, he served in Kuwait in 2003 in Operation Enduring Freedom. He also helped develop Maine's ongoing relationship with Montenegro.

Brigadier General James Campbell, the Adjutant General of the Maine National Guard, says"We are shocked and saddened by the unexpected loss of Lt. Col. Backus. Mike was a longstanding career officer who served professionally in a number of key assignments and served the country and state well. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time."

"He was a great Maine soldier, in the tradition of so many other great Maine soldiers that have gone before him," he added. "He was a community man, a family man, but he was absolutely dedicated to the service."

"I think we are prepared when we deploy men and women to lose them, and as tragic a loss as those circumstances are, this one is more shocking at some level because it is so unexpected," stated retired Major General John "Bill" Libby.

"He was a devoted family man," added Gen. Libby. "Mike was devoted to his community, and he's a great loss not only to the Maine National Guard, but also to his community."

Lt. Col. Backus was 44 years old.

Funeral arrangements are still being worked out, but Backus is expected to be honored with a full military service this weekend.

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