Family members of the fallen choose a stone to memorialize their loved one.
For the second year, the program is hosting a Memorial Day Tribute Trek at Baxter State Park.
Hikers will join more than 30 Gold Star families for a weekend of remembrance.
Caitlin Burchill has the story of one fallen hero, Army captain and helicopter pilot, Jay Brainard.
“Jay was fun loving above all things. He was kind hearted to a fault. Whether you wanted help or not, Jay was going to help you,” said Army Captain Jay Brainard’s aunt Nancy White.
Brainard’s list of attributes goes on and on.
“Something about the Army that really attracted him. He liked to dress up in army clothes, play with his Army men. Yeah, he had an attraction to service,” she said.
Many memories and awards are displayed at his aunt and uncle’s home in Atkinson. A place where Brainard loved to be.
“We got word on Memorial Day 2012, Memorial Day was May 28th. We got word that evening that his Apache helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan,” said his uncle Whitey White.
A holiday weekend that has a whole lot of meaning for the Whites.
“It turned into like a party weekend for most people, but it will never ever be a party weekend for us again. It will always be a time to honor and remember our Jay and all the fallen soldiers,” said Nancy White.
Something that has given them solace since his death, The Summit Project.
In the last year, 8 strangers, from high school students to moms, have taken Brainard’s memorial stone on treks.
They have become family.
“It’s joy and sadness all in one, knowing that your loved one is not forgotten. It’s been a really big help for us,” said Whitey White.
Hikers are asked to learn about the fallen’s life, to keep his or her memory alive.
Nevin Williams will carry Brainard’s stone this weekend.
“My son is a Marine and he’s serving over in Hawaii and you think about the wars that we’ve had and you think about the families that are affected by it and the kids that are affected, so it means a lot and it should mean a lot to all of us,” said Williams, a Brewer resident.
He’s discovered his son and Brainard are a lot alike.
“It’s absolutely amazing that Jay, that he’s gone, but he’s not forgotten and that even now he lives on and he’s making new friends and when they leave to go, they’re carrying a piece of our heart up that mountain too,” said Nancy White.
The Whites are once again looking forward to the tribute trek this weekend.
TV5’s Caitlin Burchill will be carrying the stone of Moscow native Army Specialist Jason Dore.
For more information on The Summit Project, visit their website.