Army Sgt. Joshua J. Kirk




30, of South Portland, Maine; assigned to the 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo.; died Oct. 3, 2009 in Kamdesh, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his contingency outpost with small arms, rocket-propelled grenade and indirect fires. Also killed were Sgt. Justin T. Gallegos, Spc. Christopher T. Griffin, Sgt. Joshua M. Hardt, Spc. Stephan L. Mace, Staff Sgt. Vernon W. Martin, Sgt. Michael P. Scusa and Pfc. Kevin C. Thomson.

To honor SGT Joshua J. Kirk, his widow, Ms. Megan Gavin-Kirk retrieved this stone near the academic classrooms of Southern Maine Community College, in South Portland, Maine. This is the spot where Megan and Joshua first met and shared a class.  Megan retrieved this stone on  the date of their wedding anniversary.


Watch this video to learn why this stone is significant and what you need to know about SGT Joshua J. Kirk if YOU carry this stone up and down the mountains of Maine.

Also to honor SGT Joshua J. Kirk, his uncle Mr. Jerry Dinsmore retrieved this stone from the east branch river of the of the Oyster Lake near SGT Kirk’s birthplace in Thomaston, Maine.


Also to honor SGT Joshua J. Kirk, his mother Bernadette Kirk-Bonner retrieved this stone from the Moyie River in Moyie Springs, Idaho.

Bernadette Kirk-Bonner describes this origin of this stone and talks about her son –

“I am Bernadette Kirk-Bonner and the proud Gold Star Mother of Sgt. Joshua John Kirk who was killed October 3, 2009 at COP Keating, located in the Kamdesh District, Nuristan Province, Afghanistan.

The stone that you are carrying today was taken from the Moyie River in Moyie Springs, Idaho. Joshua and his family lived and played beside this river from the time he was four until he grew up and left home at age 21. Joshua and his 5 siblings (4 sisters and 1 younger brother) spent many wonderful summer days on the river, rafting and swimming. This stone is a reminder of those happy times.  This stone also signify his love of rock climbing. When he was 19 he attended a Colorado Outward Bound 30 day mountaineering program. He returned with a passion for rock climbing as well as a deeper love for the wilderness he grew up in. If he were alive today I know that this is a journey he himself would undertake on behalf of the fallen.  The mountain you are climbing today is significant on another level as well. While in our twenties, his father and I climbed this mountain and had our picture taken at the top. John has since died and I am too old to climb with you today but rest assured, we are both with you in spirit.

Everything that you need to know about Joshua was written in the book entitled, “The Outpost; An Untold Story of American Valor.” I hope you have or will take the time to read it. I am excerpting the passage that follows:

Kirk’s men saw him as being unafraid, unthreatened, and, at times, unrestrained. During firefights, he would tell them, “If you think you need to shoot something, shoot it. It doesn’t matter how much ammo you might waste. If you need to kill it, kill it.” Most of the guys at the outpost were tough, but Kirk, he was crazy brave-fearless. Absolutely.

Kirk had been born at home in Thomaston, Maine, the son of a Vietnam veteran who transformed himself from the dope-smoking head of a motorcycle gang into a born-again Christian carpenter. When Josh was five, the family moved to fifteen acres of land not far from Bonners Ferry, Idaho, a small town best known for U.S. law enforcement’s siege of a compound at nearby Ruby Ridge in 1992. The Kirks had running water but no electricity; their closet neighbors were five miles away. Joshua and his five siblings were homeschooled. Their entertainment was entirely self-created; building forts, sleeping in tents, playing flashlight tag, and, when they were teenagers, engaging in elaborate games of war. One such game, invented by Joshua, came to be called Test of Courage; it basically consisted of devising terrifying tasks and daring the other players to attempt them. The challenges started out harmless enough but then quickly escalated to dangerous acts such as exploring an abandoned silver mine, walking on top of the old Eileen Dam, and body-surfing fierce river rapids. In retrospect, it seemed astonishing that no one had ever died.

Kirk was back in in Afghanistan pretty quickly. He had been entitled under Army “stabilization” rules to have twelve months at home. He had returned to Afghanistan before he was required to. “I wasn’t going to let my soldiers come here without me,” Kirk, a team leader, explained.

The ancient Athenian general Pericles, in his funeral oration for the war dead said: ” Usually decision is the fruit of ignorance, hesitation of reflection. But the palm of courage will surely be adjudged most justly to those, who best know the difference between hardship and pleasure and yet are never tempted to shrink from danger.”

Sometimes courage is rooted in ignorance, as when men who don’t know what they’re about to face rise to the occasion. Joshua Kirk had ample knowledge about how dangerous it was in Nuristan, and yet he had hurried back. The palm of courage.”

12 thoughts on “Army Sgt. Joshua J. Kirk

  1. Hello, My name is Tom, My wife Amy and I are proud members of the Patriot Riders. We will be extremely honored to carry Joshua’s memorial stone. I wish to thank Joshua and his family for your ultimate sacrifice. We are so proud of him, God bless him. He will never be forgotten. After learning about Joshua, I think he would love this journey to the top of Mt. Katahdin.

    • I was the scout who gave you Joshua’s stone. It was nice to meet you and I am happy we did team work to get Joshua’s stone to the mountain.


  2. Megan,
    Thank you for carrying this stone and Josh’s name and memory on. As Josh’s former roomate and very close friend, I think of him often and cherish the photos and countless memories we had together. This video made me smile at how wonderfully you spoke of him and his confident, sarcastic, goofy, softer side. I look forward to hiking up and touching the stone you place in his memoy. He truly was a one of a kind man, in the best of ways. Warmest Regards,
    Jennifer Hildreth

  3. Dear family,
    I am a Webelos 2 and I represented your loved one on 5/23/14 when the motorcycles took off to Mount Katahdin. I was the one who gave a rock to the motorcycle couple and they drove off with the special rock. I will be praying for you and your loss.

  4. Ben Sprague wrote — When David Cote told me about the Summit Project I told him I thought it was a great project and that I especially liked the distinctly Maine theme of hiking stones up our state’s tallest peaks. I wished him well and said I would follow the project with interest. When he asked me to join on the hike, I said, “What? You want me? I can’t do that.”

    My resistance was not through lack of interest, but rather because I thought as a civilian I would be infringing upon (quite literally) sacred space. Even as the weekend approached and I met others associated with the project and heard the stories about those we were honoring I felt that it was not my place to be among this group.

    As the weekend progressed, however, the barriers I thought existed between the armed forces community and the civilian one slowly dissolved. This happened for two reasons, I think. One, we were all committed to the same mission: to honor Maine’s fallen service members and to support their families and loved ones in doing so.

    And second, and what really hit me during the hike and after, is that I had in my mind this image of Sgt. Joshua Kirk, in whose memory I hiked, as being a superhero. I imagined him being like a fictional G.I. Joe character and it was hard to feel a connection that. Here he was, fighting tooth and nail at some distant desert outpost on my behalf in a world and environment that I could not possibly comprehend. I might as well have been hiking in honor of Captain America.

    But as I made the trip up the Owl Trail with Megan Kirk, Josh’s wife, she told me about Josh the father, Josh the husband, Josh the neighbor and family man. Suddenly he did not seem as much like the image I had built up in my mind and more like the kind of guy you’d see at the hardware store on the weekend or go fishing with.

    As I talked with Megan, it became clear to me that she wanted Josh to be remembered as a hero, yes, but not as a caricature. She wanted him to be remembered for the special person he was every day, not just when he was fighting on our behalf.

    And with that conversation, I felt the divide between Megan’s military family and my civilian family lessen.

    I can never imagine what it would be like to lose a loved one in a war or to even have a loved one overseas or to be there myself. There are certain things about the military lifestyle that I will never be able to relate to nor necessarily should I since I haven’t been a part of it. But I am happy that through the Summit Project we were able to (hopefully) show military families that there are many in the civilian community who support and respect them not just on holidays or special occasions, but all the time. In return, I was grateful for the opportunity to get a close look at what life is like for these families. We did the hike on Memorial Day weekend and I distinctly remember Megan looking at me and saying, “Every day is Memorial Day for us.” That really hit me.

    As an elected leader in Bangor, Maine, I worry that America’s veterans are being used as political fodder. I remember one retired service member saying that veterans are “American politician’s favorite chew toy.” I think it is important that we make efforts to really understand our veterans’ concerns and those of their families and to tackle the complexity instead of just waving a flag, slapping on a pin, and saying patriotic words and phrases. It is comforting to think of our service members as red, white, and blue all-American heroes, and of course they are, but they are also just American citizens like you and me who have chosen to do extraordinary things. To me that makes the act of military service all the more amazing and yes, heroic.

    I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to share in Sgt. Kirk’s memory. I offer my thanks to his family for sharing their stories with me and to David Cote for organizing this wonderful project. I hope to continue to be involved in the future and to work to bridge the gap between military life and civilian life.

  5. From Any Charles — Trek Across Maine 2014;

    In June 2014 I participated in the Trek Across Maine, a 3 day/180 mile bike ride from the mountains to the sea. This annual event supports the American Lung Association’s good works promoting healthy air, and as a regular participant I also rode to honor my dad’s memory – he was a military veteran like me.

    This year was particularly meaningful to me because I also carried a memorial stone for Army SGT Joshua Kirk. SGT Kirk met his future wife Megan near my home in South Portland, so I felt a connection even before learning about his life and service to our country.

    Prior to the ride I learned as much as I could about SGT Kirk from the TSP website and from conversations with his widow Megan. She is a gracious & powerful woman who wears her loss with dignity and purpose. During the three days of the Trek SGT Kirk’s stone was with me continuously, and I shared his story with over 100 other riders along the way. Many people took time to hold the stone, snap a photo, and hear the story of Josh’s service and sacrifice. This showed me the real meaning of creating a living memorial. And on the second night of the Trek over 1500 people heard about TSP at a rally attended by all the participants.

    After the ride I met Megan and her daughter Kensington in person, and shared some of my experiences from the Trek. I told them about all the people who heard SGT Kirk’s story, and the way they responded with respect and appreciation for his service. It was very moving to be with them after carrying the stone. While the idea was initially intellectual, it quickly became real once the stone was with me. In fact, it felt strange to return the stone after the ride – it had become part of my life for those few days.

    To SGT Joshua Kirk: Thank you for your service, for your courage & sacrifice, and for stepping up to support and defend our nation. You paid the ultimate price, and no matter what others may say about the conflict that took your life they cannot lessen the impact you made and will continue to make through keeping your memory alive.

    To Megan Gavin-Kirk: Thank you for showing us how to grieve through celebrating Joshua’s life rather than solely by mourning his death. You set an inspiring example for your daughter and others who learn of Joshua’s story. Through your actions you are the embodiment of a living memorial.

    To Kensington: Your daddy gave his life for his country, and sadly he will not be with you as you grow up. But his spirit will always be there with you. It’s clear you are an amazing girl and you will thrive and grow into a woman of purpose like your mom. I hope the living memory of your father will be a positive influence in your life.

    I was honored to carry SGT Kirk’s stone and be a part of The Summit Project. It’s real, it matters, and it connects on a level way deeper than words can express. If you have even a casual interest in participating…go for it. You won’t regret it!

    Andy Charles

  6. To the Family of SGT Joshua Kirk,

    My name is Rob Dinwoodie, and I am a Captain in the Marine Corps and Operation Iraqi Freedom Veteran. I had the honor of carrying one of Joshua’s memorial stones up Owl Mountain during the Summit Project at Baxter State Park on Memorial Day weekend. In the weeks leading up to The Summit Project hike, I learned everything I could about SGT Kirk on the internet, in books, and through correspondence with his Uncle, Jerry Dinsmore. The narrative of SGT Kirk’s life and sacrifice is inspiring and has put my role as a Marine Officer and the true nature of leadership into greater perspective. SGT Kirk exemplified all that is expected of a military leader; tough, caring, smart, and brave. Above all he was dedicated to his soldiers and did everything, including giving his own life, to save his men. He lived the warrior ethos of Honor, Courage, and Commitment, and reminded me that regardless of my duty station and job, I need to as well.

    I am currently stationed at the Pentagon in Washington D.C., far away from the front lines. Every single day, for the past several years, I drive three miles to work and park next to Arlington National Cemetery. From there, I walk one mile to the Pentagon entrance, past thousands of headstones where heroes are buried on this nation’s most sacred ground. After walking under a tunnel I emerge at the Pentagon Memorial dedicated to those 184 souls that died on September 11, 2001, when hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 slammed into the building. Every day, I look at the Pentagon and notice the different colored limestone denoting the parts of the building that were rebuilt after the attacks, and the limestone that has been there since the Pentagon was built in 1943. Every day, I walk through the halls that 13 years ago were a smoking ruin, and where the first blood was shed in the war against terrorism. Every day, I make the same return trip to my car, but in the afternoon, I walk past hundreds of tourists visiting the Pentagon Memorial. The Pentagon wall’s limestone, the Arlington National Cemetery headstones, and the memorials to the victims of 9-11 all speak of great sacrifice, but I have grown accustomed to their presence and ignorant of their true weight. Unfortunately, the mundane nature of my daily routine has made me forget the enormous weight of the sacrifices that are testified in the monuments around me.

    The true weight of these war’s sacrifices became tangible again- and my sworn duty to support the warrior’s on the front line in all of my daily actions- when I held Sgt Kirk’s memorial stone, felt its texture, and read his name, rank, and life span. When I carried the stone up Owl Mountain I was reminded that the weight of war’s sacrifice is real, all around us, and borne by many, many people. It was truly an honor to be a part of the Summit Project and meet all the amazing people involved. It was an honor to carry the memorial stone of your loved one, SGT Kirk, and a true privilege to learn about his life and his warrior spirit. It is now my duty to help keep his memory alive, and I will tell his story for as long as I can. SGT Kirk has left an indelible impression on me and I will never forget the true weight of his sacrifice.

    Semper Fidelis,
    Captain Rob Dinwoodie, USMC

  7. I was asked by my sister, Cherie Sackville of Scarborough, Maine to look at this website prior to our annual hiking trip in the White Mountains. She encouraged me to take on this added responsibility. She committed to carrying Capt. Jay Brainard’s stone. At first I was reluctant. I am a novice hiker and the thought of carrying extra weight was a little daunting. However, once I viewed the Summit Project, I immediately scrolled through the bios and was amazed at the heroism and sacrifice and I thought it was the least I could do to carry a stone up a mountain. So, after reading Sgt. Kirk’s bio and listening to his widow’s video, my connection was made and I committed to this whole-heartedly, knowing that this was a small sacrifice to make after reading all of the personal stories of pain and loss that these heroes and their families have endured.

    Our first day up Valley Way to Madison Spring Hut in the White Mountains was exceptionally humid and hot. The trail is shrouded in trees so it doesn’t get much breeze. I knew I was running low on water and I was struggling to make the last mile. I was sure that I was reaching dehydration or heat exhaustion. My coordination was getting unsteady so we stopped again for a break. I was sure we weren’t going to make it. However, as part of our girls trip, I packed a little wine for our mountaintop reward. I said out loud, “Only I would bring more wine than water. If Jesus can turn water into wine, I sure hope he can turn wine into water.” No sooner had we put our packs back on and taken two steps and my sister yelled, “Oh my God, there’s a bottle of water!” It had fallen out of someone’s pack and rolled off the trail. We both started jumping up and down. I started to cry. It was as if it had been sent to heaven. Cherie looked at me and said, “It’s from our guys!!! They’re looking out for us!!” We simply could not believe it but it powered us through the last mile up to the hut safely.

    The hut croo allowed my sister, Cherie to do a brief presentation of The Summit Project that night after dinner and we displayed our stones for all 52 people who were staying there that night. I had printed out Sgt. Kirk’s bio and people were genuinely interested in the project and the lives of those soldiers who were with us that trip. I was proud to be able to explain the project and what it meant to both of us.

    The next day we continued on the Gulfside Trail toward Mt. Washington for 6 miles. Everyone that we spoke with at the hut the night before this day told us it was difficult but that’s not what we had read about or was mentioned in planning this trip. We knew it would be a long day but worth it because we would be summiting Mount Washington with our stones. The weather was starting to roll in so we were hurrying to avoid the afternoon thunderstorms and eventually made it eight arduous hours later to the top. It was the hardest thing I have ever done. The weight of the pack was inconsequential knowing what others have sacrificed for me. It was a journey that I will never forget and I am honored and humbled to have carried the stone of Sgt. Joshua J. Kirk. I hope I have carried on his spirit of adventure and commitment to excellence that makes me proud to say he was part of my journey and a life story that I will continue to share for many years.

  8. Hi Debbie, This is a great story. I’m sure Jesus was looking out for you and Sgt. Kirk…you left no stone unturned.

  9. Hi Megan, Wanted to let you know that I have your husband’s memorial stone. I am a critical care nurse at MMC, in Portland. Another nurse and I did the Run for the Fallen this past Sunday where I learned about the Summit Project. Since I live near SMMC I decided that I would bring Joshua’s memorial stone on my hike this thursday. Your story of how you met at the school was wonderful, I jog by the school a few times a week. My sister is turning 50 thursday, on for her birthday she wants to hike Mtt Katahdin, so that is what we and 8 other friends are doing. It is her first time up the mountain ( I have been up it 8 times) so Joshua is coming along. I plan on posting pictures to the facebook website with Sgt Joshua Kirk’s journey up a mountain with 8 women. From listening to your video, talking about him, I think he would be up for the adventure. Some are experienced hikers other first timers. I is an honor to carry his memorial stone. All the girls will learn all about him.

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