EL Students Carry Soldiers’ Memories to Mountain Summit

By Shannon Brown, ’16, and Haley Knowlton, ’17

As the morning air held the chill of early winter and snow that had fallen early that morning clung to the branches, a number of Edward Little High School juniors hiked up Bradbury Mountain in Pownal. The students were carrying stones –each engraved with initials, a rank, branch of service, and two dates – to the mountain’s peak that November morning as part of The Summit Project, a local organization that honors fallen Maine soldiers.

The path up to the summit was covered in mud and slush, making it a slippery climb for the ELHS students. Melting snow would occasionally drop down onto the backs of students on the path. Students would often stop to trade off carrying their soldier’s stone, so that everyone would get an opportunity to share the burden and responsibility.

“I feel very honored,” Jacqueline Dyer said when asked how she felt about carrying the veteran’s stone.

“It’s a good way to memorialize them for their service,” said junior Nysa Chartier.

Before the hike, the stones were laid out on a picnic table draped with the blue Maine state flag and a white Summit Project flag. The stones were varying shades of gray, brown, red and tan, reflecting the different ocean shores, grassy fields, and backyards they came from, each place holding a memory of that veteran.

The junior students had been preparing for the climb by forming small groups of three or four students and researching a fallen veteran. At the summit of the mountain, each group would lay down their soldier’s stone, which was chosen by the soldier’s family from one of their loved one’s favorite places and then engraved with their initials, rank, branch of service and date of birth and death. The group would then give a short speech remembering their soldier, ending with “He will be missed.”

At the top of Bradbury’s summit, students gazed out at the green and white landscape below, the rocks and stones tucked safely within their arms. The white Summit Project flag lay on the ground in front of them. Students gathered around the flag in a semi-circle. The students had worked in groups researching their fallen soldier, and a member of each group stepped up and placed the stone they carried upon the memorial flag. They stated the fallen soldier’s name, rank and then went on to talk about the soldier’s life. They told the group where their rock came from, about the soldier’s family and favorite things, and in some cases how the soldier died. Many speeches ended with “He will be missed.”

The trip was a culmination of the junior English and Social Studies units on war and war literature. “We actually heard about The Summit Project through the help of assistant principal, Mr. Horn,” said English teacher Amanda Martemucci, one of the teachers involved. “He knew we were trying to come up with some type of field trip/project to do within the community based on our war unit and wanted to help out since he is a veteran himself. He knew someone who has helped with the organization and got us in contact with him to learn more about the project and how we could get involved. I remember as soon as I heard about it, I wanted to find a way to participate in it with our students.

“Many of the students, when I first told them were interested and were excited to get to learn about a soldier from Maine,” said Martemucci. “I think once they actually participated and experienced what it was all about, they really understood what a great and impactful experience it was. I think it made it that much more worthwhile to create this type of opportunity for them.”

The morning chill and melting snow left a cold start for the students’ climb. Trudging up the mountain path, students were slipping and sliding through mud and slush and getting pelted by melting snow falling from trees. The students carried the soldiers stones either tucked within their arms or safely within their bags as they climbed over wet rocks and roots. The clouds hung overhead, occasionally parting to leave gaps for the sun to shine through to give some warmth to the chilly air.

The conditions gave the students a very small glimpse of what the veterans had experienced. The students carried the happy memories of a veteran up muddied paths and slippery slopes all the while the rock may have gotten heavier, but the students kept going knowing they would reach the top. Those veterans had trudged through mud, sludge, sand, and battlefields; a climb up Bradbury Mountain was the least these students could do.

“I loved doing this type of project,” said Martemucci. “It was amazing. It was great working with some of my fellow teachers to collaborate on this project and getting our classes involved with working with one another. It truly was a great experience for the students and us. Everyone enjoyed themselves and took something positive and even educational out of the experience. I look forward to getting students together to participate in the Summit Project again next year and coming up with more projects such as this for the future.”

 

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