The Summit Project is a living legacy memorial for Maine’s fallen heroes who have died since 9/11. Their families select stones, we have them engraved, and volunteers take those stones on hikes and adventures of many varieties. The mission? To share the stories of these heroes so that they are never forgotten.
I was familiar with The Summit Project (TSP), but it wasn’t until a warm August afternoon when I knew I had a strong role to play in this mission. On that day I volunteered to carry the stone representing the life of a fallen hero during a TSP event in the town of Lincoln. That was the day that I met Jeff Hutchins, the father of United States Army Corporal Andrew Hutchins. Andrew was a young man from New Portland who signed on to serve his country, to answer the call to something much bigger than himself, and ultimately signed off with his life. Andrew was a sweet, kind boy who was actively involved in events at school and in his community. He was a leader and a friend to all. He was always smiling and cared about making others happy. As I carried this large, heavy stone thru the town, I walked alongside Andrew’s dad. I recall several times that Jeff offered to take the stone, thinking it was too heavy for me to have for that length of a walk. I couldn’t allow it. I couldn’t let it go. To me, carrying that stone was the absolute least I could do to honor this young hero, so much more mature than he should have been for a boy his age. His maturity was earned not only because of his upbringing bit because of the role he volunteered to take on. Andrew Hutchins went to war. He served at an outpost and was injured very seriously when he fell from a tower while on duty. His fellow soldiers report that when he fell, he claimed it wasn’t all that bad. Yet, his injuries were severe and he was sent back home to the states for a surgery that should have entailed long recovery and likely would’ve ended his military career, however, that young Maine soldier wouldn’t hear of it. He fought harder than the average, above and beyond worked thru his recovery with the goal of returning to his troops. He achieved that goal, only to die at the hands of the enemy during an attack on his outpost. He left behind not only his loving family including younger brother Ben but also his young bride who was pregnant with the beautiful daughter that he would never meet. Andrew Hutchins knew the risk, yet he volunteered. Not just volunteered, but fought to be back there despite the chance that he might not return. It is that spirit of true patriotism, true call to serve, that is a positive influence on all who carry his stone. Andrew always pushed farther, always carried extra weight, always achieved whatever he set his mind to. When death would be seemingly the only thing to stop his achievements, his legacy carries on as we share his story by carrying his stone.
Andrew died just three days before Veterans Day in 2010. As the country honors those who serve, Andrew’s family and friends mourn him. But within that mourning is pride. Pride for the boy he was and the young man he had become. Pride for the soldier who fought for his country and against all odds returned into the combat zone to guide others to a better place. Because of him, our world is a better place today. The Summit Project allows that his memory lives on.
To learn more about Maine’s fallen heroes and how to become more involved, visit thesummitproject.org