Maine heroes are not forgotten.   I’ve been thinking a lot about the service members from Maine who died in the line of duty and in the service and defense of this country since September 11, 2001.

My name is Major David J. Cote.  I’m an active-duty Marine Corps officer, an Iraq war veteran and a proud native Mainer.  Over Memorial Day weekend 2013, I officially created The Summit Project.  I launched this website and visited Maine to publicly share a vision for a unique project to honor and sustain the memories of our state’s newest war veterans and the faithful spirit of all Mainers — of whom one in seven are veterans, the third-highest ranking in the nation.

Dave Smiling_3Major David J. Cote, USMC — Bangor, Maine, 2013

The Summit Project, a 501c3 service organization, is a living memorial that pays tribute to the fallen service members from Maine who have died in the line of duty since September 11, 2001. The mission of The Summit Project is to honor our state’s newest war casualties and the faithful spirit of all Mainers.

The surviving families of our fallen Maine heroes have made this project viable.  Not only have they shared the stories of their loved ones’ character, integrity and service, they have also unearthed and donated a special memorial stone that uniquely represents their fallen family member. We’ve engraved those stones and beginning with Katahdin on Memorial Day 2014, volunteers will hike up and down mountains in Maine carrying these stones in their packs.  We will carry their stones during the hike, but we will carry their stories for a lifetime —  making the Summit Project a living memorial.

Our tribute hikes will become a symbol of solidarity that recognizes the burden shouldered by our brave Maine service members and their families. We will honor the fallen by challenging the living.  We will live a life worthy of their sacrifice.

As a living memorial, The Summit Project is much more than names on a wall.  We will prepare for our tribute hikes by learning as much as possible about each fallen Maine hero — we want to know who they were as siblings, spouses, children, soldiers, citizens and Mainers.   Before every climb our teams of hikers will watch the short videos on this site, videos that our surviving families have helped to create.  These stories will help us get a glimpse of the lives of our fallen heroes, appreciate their service,  and orient our own mind, body and spirit toward honoring and sustaining their memory.

Different than any other multi-sport athletic event out there, this will be an endurance event that has real meaning.   We believe that carrying these stones will help us understand what it was like to serve, what it means to serve and what it means to sacrifice for something greater, even when the payoff is sometimes unclear.  Our act of solidarity and the alignment of our efforts toward the summit of Katahdin and other mountains in Maine will reinforce the values that all Mainers hold dear – 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.  In that sense, the spirit of our fallen Maine heroes can remain very much alive.

If you are up for the challenge of honoring the fallen while challenging the living, we want to hear from you.    Your group can pick a weekend, plan a hike, carry these stones and dedicate an event to our Maine heroes.  We invite you to be part of this living memorial.

We hope this project can help tell a story of a generation of Mainers who did not come back to Maine, but whose service and sacrifice will never be forgotten.    This is a story of our generation of Maine servicemembers — a story that needs to be told.  It’s an opportunity to say to our veterans you did your job.  You served with honor.  You made us proud.   We are connected to you and continue to learn from your example. We are inspired by you.  We honor your sacrifice.  We do not forget you. Your legacy endures.

Finally, I think the Summit Project has the potential to make our communities stronger. Through the act of giving up the luxury of a lighter pack for the greater reward of honoring our fallen, we can appreciate the tremendous stories of their integrity, character and service. We believe our community, our state and our nation can grow closer in the bonds of service and citizenship.    The stories of these stones and the lives they represent will impact all of us.  The Summit Project allows all of us to carry on the work of our fallen comrades towards creating a safer, sounder and more just America.

One day, long after we are gone, there will be a team of hikers who, because of this project, will learn about a fallen Maine hero they have never met, who fought a war they never knew — and in that moment, on the summit of a mountain in Maine, a connection will be made and the proud legacy of our Maine heroes will endure.

I spent part of Memorial Day 2013 with Mr. Jerry Dinsmore, uncle of fallen Maine hero SGT Joshua J. Kirk of Thomaston, Maine.  Together we tended to SGT Kirk’s grave in Exeter, NH and we talked about this project.

Mark and Lynn Silk of Orono, Maine, parents of fallen Maine hero SSG Brandon M. Silk, share their thoughts about The Summit Project.

Tom and Jane Zimmerman of Smyrna, Maine, parents of fallen Maine hero 1stLt James R. Zimmerman, share thoughts about hiking with these stones.

There are MANY more stories like the these on other pages of this site.   Every stone tells a story and so many families have graciously shared those stories with this project.   Please navigate to the Stones tab, read more about the stones we’ve collected and click MORE.

Thank you for visiting this site to learn about The Summit Project.   Please consider offering your support to keep this The Summit Project going.   Maine heroes are not forgotten!

djc

Disclaimer:  The views and opinions of the authors expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of the United States Government, the Department of Defense or United States Marine Corps.