Southport Central School guidance counselor Meredith Fowlie has always felt strongly about honoring those who serve in the military.
“A few years ago, a good friend lost her brother, First Lieutenant James Zimmerman. He died in service to our country on Nov. 2, 2010,” Fowlie said. “We supported them in their grief and want to make sure his memory lives on.”
One day while scrolling Facebook, she came upon the Summit Project and contacted the founder about bringing the Project to Boothbay Region High School. With the support of Principal Dan Welch, this Veterans Day students, faculty and members of the community will join together to honor veterans through the Summit Project.
The Summit Project is the creation of Major David J. Cote, a native Mainer who is an officer in the Marine Corps and an Iraq War veteran. According to thesummitproject.org, Cote created the project as “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.”
Through the project, stones are engraved with the names of Maine soldiers who gave their lives in service and then carried on a hike by volunteers all over Maine, representing “sharing the burden” of the men and women. Each volunteer trekker is required to learn about the fallen veteran, carry the stone through the physical challenge, and finish by writing a letter to the family of the veteran. Since its creation in 2013, stones have been carried on hikes on Mount Katahdin, Cadillac, Kilimanjaro, Everest, Denali and been carried through parades, marathons and marches all across Maine.
“We carry their stone for a hike, we carry their story for a lifetime” is the project’s motto.
“This is an incredible teaching moment for our students,” Welch said. “Our veterans have sacrificed so much to ensure our freedoms. These stones represent those who lost their lives in the service to our country and I think it is important for students to learn about the values that these men and women embodied in their lives.”
The morning of Veterans Day, Nov. 11, volunteer students will hike with the commemorative stones around the Boothbay region from 9 a.m. to noon. These students will learn about the individual soldiers their stones represent and teach others as parents and community members are welcome to join. At 1 p.m. the students will march in a Veterans Day parade starting at the Boothbay Harbor Town Office and concluding at Boothbay Region High School, followed by a ceremony in the gym where students will place their stone in a memorial display case that will be housed at BRHS for a month.
“It is of great importance to honor those that made sacrifices for our freedoms,” Fowlie said. “My husband and I feel very passionately about making sure these heroes are honored. Not just those who have been killed, but those who are in our communities and nursing homes as well.
“Many people talk about heroes, like professional athletes. But those who have served in the military are true heroes.”
Smith S. Climo wrote:
Yesterday was Veteran's Day . Sometimes you wonder if we as a community remember what it stands for . Well , we sure did this year . A group of high schoolers and adults engaged in a wonderful and meaningful endeavor together . They went on a hike around our area for the "Summit Project " to honor our fallen Maine heroes . They carried a stone with the name and rank of the fallen veteran with them on the hike . They did this on a cold rainy day which by the way was a day off from school . They had been given the option to cancel but to a person they said , "No , We want to do this " and so they did . They hiked from the high school down through downtown across the footbridge and all around the East side. They stopped at the Fisherman's Memorial and took time to talk about their "Vet " then hiked back to the town hall . Then they walked in a parade back to the high school with folks lining the roadside , cheering them on . Finally a ceremony was held in the high school gym with a Major speaking and the young hikers naming the Veteran whose stone they had carried before placing the stones in a display case . Following the ceremony as everyone was enjoying cake and conversation , one the hikers said to me , "This is one of coolest things I've ever done " . Yeah , it was one of the coolest things in my life as well . God Bless America ! Smith S. Climo