By Aislinn Sarnacki, BDN Staff, Posted May 26, 2014, at 7:28 a.m.
Atop the mountain, 26-year-old Dylan Harris set down his heavy backpack, unzipped it, and removed a large gray stone. Etched on its rough surface:
D. J. H.
The stone represented his brother.
Army Spc. Dustin James Harris — recipient of the Army Achievement Medal, Bronze Star Medal and Purple Heart — died at age 21 on April 6, 2006, while serving in Iraq. This sacrifice placed him among the ranks of Maine’s many fallen heroes. But to his younger brother Dylan, he had always been a hero. Dylan was one of the 35 volunteers who hiked in Baxter State Park on Memorial Day weekend to honor service members who died in the line of duty. The memorial event was organized by The Summit Project, a new nonprofit organization with the mission to create a “living memorial” that pays tribute to the fallen service members from Maine who’ve died in the line of duty since Sept. 11, 2001.
While some of the hikers were family members of the fallen, many of the hikers had never met the hero whose stone they carried up the 3,700-foot mountain called The Owl. Nevertheless, they were there to pay tribute. “I never knew him,” said Noah Hudson, 26, of Ocean Park, as he carried the tribute stone of Army National Guard Spc. Jeremiah J. Holmes of North Berwick. “But I feel like I did.”
Before carrying a tribute stone up a mountain, each hiker participating in The Summit Project is expected to learn about the person behind the initials etched in stone. They’re also tasked with writing a letter to the fallen hero’s family about the experience.
“It’s unlike anything else in America,” said Maj. David Cote, The Summit Project founder. “We collect stones, but we also collect stories of the fallen.” MORE