2016-03-04 / Front Page

Memorial on display through mid-April

By Wm. Duke Harrington
Staff Writer


Jennifer Kirk, an assistant program manager at the South Portland Boys and Girls Club, places stones engraved with the name or initials of Maine service members killed since 9/11 into a display case that will be part of the Summit Project exhibition at the club available for public viewing through mid-April. (Duke Harrington photo) Jennifer Kirk, an assistant program manager at the South Portland Boys and Girls Club, places stones engraved with the name or initials of Maine service members killed since 9/11 into a display case that will be part of the Summit Project exhibition at the club available for public viewing through mid-April. (Duke Harrington photo) SOUTH PORTLAND — It might have been any run-of-the-mill field trip, but for the American flags carried by members of the Boys and Girls Club that gave the impression that something special was underway, and the flags that drew the occasional honk from passing motorists, whether or not they knew the purpose of the march.

On Saturday, February 22, about 25 members of the Boys and Girls Club hiked four miles, from their clubhouse on Broadway, to Spring Point Light, then to Bug Light, and finally to the service memorial in Mill Creek Park and back to their starting point. But they carried with them more than the flags, they also lugged stones memorializing the dedication of service members killed since 9/11 while on active duty.

Each stone, from a small rock no bigger that a child’s hand, to seeming boulders weighing many pounds, was taken from a spot deemed to have been special to that service member by his survivors. Each rock, donated to a three-yearold organization known as The Summit Project, was engraved with the name or initials of that soldier, along with his branch of service and the dates of his birth and death. While at Mill Creek Park, each hiker read a biography of the soldier memorialized on the stone he or she carried, after which the entire group paused for a moment of silent refection on the sacrifices made in the name of liberty.

“I was honored to carry Mark’s stone and to walk all that way for him,” said Ali Abad, age 13, referring to Mark Goyet of Westbrook, who died in Afghanistan on June 28, 2011, while conducting combat operations. According to Goyet’s mother, Martha, the stone Abad carried came from the property where Mark was raised, in the family since before the American Revolution. Goyet was just 22 when he died. The average age of all of those remembered by the Boys and Girls Club members, just 19, not much older than the hikers themselves.


Members of the South Portland Boys and Girls Club, including, from left, Ben Hyland, Camdyn Morrill, Liam Griffin, Sky Jordan, and David Lyons, read biographies of Maine service members killed since 9/11 while on active duty. (Duke Harrington photo) Members of the South Portland Boys and Girls Club, including, from left, Ben Hyland, Camdyn Morrill, Liam Griffin, Sky Jordan, and David Lyons, read biographies of Maine service members killed since 9/11 while on active duty. (Duke Harrington photo) “Doing this was important to do, out of respect for the families,” said Brayden Kirk, 12, who carried a stone in honor of Dustin Harris, of Patten, killed in Iraq, in 2006, at age 21.

“My stone was kind of heavy,” Kirk said.


Members of the South Portland Boys and Girls Club, including, from left, Riley Kelley, Brayden Kirk, Sky Jordan, Devin Cooper, and Rain Jordan, pose with letters they wrote remembering Maine soldiers killed since 9/11. Those letters, part of a Summit Project exhibition on display at the club though mid- April, will be posted on the project’s website, www.thesummitproject.org. (Duke Harrington photo) Members of the South Portland Boys and Girls Club, including, from left, Riley Kelley, Brayden Kirk, Sky Jordan, Devin Cooper, and Rain Jordan, pose with letters they wrote remembering Maine soldiers killed since 9/11. Those letters, part of a Summit Project exhibition on display at the club though mid- April, will be posted on the project’s website, www.thesummitproject.org. (Duke Harrington photo) But that was appropriate, according to Maj. David Cote, who founded the Summit Project on Memorial Day, 2013.

“The Summit Project is a living memorial. There’s nothing like it in all of America,” Cote said. “The idea is to bear the weight, to feel the mass, of this very tangible, durable, physical object, and by doing so to appreciate service and sacrifice, which is what our service members gave to us.”

Cote, now a reservist in the Marine Corps, logged 15 years on active duty. He got the idea for the summit project while on a hike with Navy SEALs up Mt. Whitney, in California over the Labor Day weekend in 2012. The SEALS, he said, have a similar way of remembering their fallen comrades.


Members of the South Portland Boys and Girls Club pause at the Veterans Service Monument in Mill Creek Park on Saturday, Feb. 27, to reflect on the lives of Maine service members who have died since 9/11, after having carried stones engraved with the soldiers’ names or initials on a four-mile trek across the city, in remembrance of their sacrifice. (Duke Harrington photo) Members of the South Portland Boys and Girls Club pause at the Veterans Service Monument in Mill Creek Park on Saturday, Feb. 27, to reflect on the lives of Maine service members who have died since 9/11, after having carried stones engraved with the soldiers’ names or initials on a four-mile trek across the city, in remembrance of their sacrifice. (Duke Harrington photo) “The idea is to carry the story of our fallen heroes,” Cote said. “Ever since that hike, and coupled with Maine’s commitment to serve – nearly one in seven Mainers has served in the U.S. Military, one of the highest concentrations of veterans in the country – I’ve been inspired to honor our own fallen Maine heroes with memorial stones but to also make The Summit Project a living memorial to help build and bolster community. I wanted to allow anyone to participate in TSP, and honor the fallen through meaningful action, community involvement and physical exertion. I wanted to capture the stories of our fallen heroes, but I also imagined the story of the travels each stone would take as countless hikers carry it to help keep our heroes’ memories alive.”


Dean Barron of Auburn, takes a moment with a stone engraved with the initials of his son, Joshua, a Maine soldier slain while stationed in Arizona in 2011. (Duke Harrington photo) Dean Barron of Auburn, takes a moment with a stone engraved with the initials of his son, Joshua, a Maine soldier slain while stationed in Arizona in 2011. (Duke Harrington photo) The stones go on periodic display – they’ll be at the South Portland Boys and Girls Club through mid-April – and on two annual group excursions arranged by The Summit Project. But each stone can also be signed out by anyone. All Cote asks is that the person take a moment to reflect on the name engraved on the stone, to remember that person, and to return along with the stone a letter detailing the experience.

“TSP volunteers have told us that carrying these stones has helped them understand what it was like to serve, what it means to serve and what it means to sacrifice for something greater,” Cote said. “Our act of solidarity and the alignment of our efforts toward the summits in Maine and other mountains across the world will reinforce the values that all Mainers hold dear, that we look after one another, we remember one another, we take care of one another, we are faithful and we lift each other to higher places, literally and figuratively.”

“This is really an amazing thing. It was a beautiful thing to see the kids get involved and do this,” said Harris’ mother Morna, noting that her son’s stone came from a rock pile behind the family potato fields, which Dustin and his brother Dylan cleared from time-to-time as a young chore.

“Of course, they probably played with the rocks more than they picked the rocks, said Harris’ father, Scott Harris with a laugh.

“But it was quite an honor to have these children take part in this,” he said. This is the time in their lives when they need to learn about our fallen heroes, and what really impressed me is that they get it. They really grasp it. It’s so heart-warming to see these young people carrying on our fallen soldier’s memories.”

“I thinking about how it was an honor to carry a stone of a fallen veteran and about how he cared so much about the outdoors,” said Rain Jordan, 10, who carried the stone of Corey Dan, or Norway. “I feel like I really got to know him. He was 22 and loved animals.

“I think everyone should come and see these stones, because our veterans are very important. They died trying to keep us safe,” Jordan said. “I hope anyone who comes to see them,Their lives mattered.”

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