May 21, 2013

Marine seeks Katahdin memorial for Maine's fallen

Maj. David Cote hopes to honor the 46 Mainers who have died in the war on terror with engraved rocks atop the state's tallest mountain.

By Eric Russell
Staff Writer

David Cote, a Bangor native and Marine Corps major who is stationed in Washington, D.C., has an idea to honor the 46 service members from Maine who have died in the global war on terror. He calls it "The Summit Project."

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Maj. David Cote

Provided photo

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In this September 2012 photo, a view of Mount Katahdin from the shores of Lake Millinocket. Maj. David Cote hopes to honor the 46 Mainers who have died in the war on terror with engraved rocks atop the state's tallest mountain.

Gabe Souza

If his project goes according to plan, it won't look like a memorial, but just a pile of rocks similar to the many others that mark the trails leading to Maine's highest peak, Mount Katahdin.

His plan still needs the approval of Baxter State Park officials, which is unlikely to happen, but right now he is trying to spread the word this Memorial Day in hopes that his vision will be a reality by Memorial Day 2014.

"Every year I count the number of (veterans) I know who have died in combat, and it's in the dozens now," Cote said by telephone Monday. "And any time I talk to family members, it's always the same thing. They say, 'I don't want my son or daughter or husband's service to be forgotten.'"

He envisions the memorial as an arrangement of 46 stones – each approximately the size of two fists put together – inscribed with the service member's initials, years of birth and death and service branch insignia.

But he doesn't want to use stones that are native to Mount Katahdin. This is where Cote's project will take some effort.

He wants to visit the hometown of each fallen veteran and, with the help of a surviving loved one, use a stone from a place that was significant to that particular veteran.

"I'm thinking of a backyard, a place of worship, a fishing spot, anything that has a specific meaning," he said.

Once the stones are gathered, Cote wants to enlist a team of hikers to carry the stones in backpacks to the summit. Ideally, he would like to encourage hikers who have a connection to a fallen service member.

Once the memorial is erected, he said, the hike could become an annual Memorial Day event.

Cote already has started the process of reaching out to family members of fallen service members. The response has been positive, he said. He will be in Maine later this week through Memorial Day to meet with families of fallen service members.

Jeffrey Hutchins of Leeds, who lost his son, U.S. Army Cpl. Andrew Hutchins, in November 2010, is among those who have expressed support for Cote's idea. Andrew Hutchins was serving as a military policeman in Afghanistan and died from wounds he suffered during an insurgent attack. He was just 20 years old and left behind a pregnant wife.

"I think about him all the time," Jeffrey Hutchins said.

Hutchins already knows where he'll get his rock from. When Andrew was younger, the two would go fishing every Memorial Day weekend, often at Grand Lake Stream in Washington County. On one of those trips, an eagle swooped down from a tree and flew almost directly over their heads. That moment is something they always remembered, Hutchins said.

"I think I'm going to find a rock from that spot," he said.

But getting Cote's memorial approved is by no means assured.

Mount Katahdin, in Piscataquis County, is located within Baxter State Park and is one of the state's most visited spots. Park Director Jensen Bissell said that when former Gov. Percival Baxter donated the land in nearly 30 installments between 1931 and 1962, he intended the park to belong to the people of Maine.

Baxter also made it clear that he didn't want the park to be home to memorials, Bissell said.

(Continued on page 2)

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