Pine Grove Cemetery in Appleton is not easy to find. This rural community beyond the Camden Hills has a post office, a library, a fast-running stream where a mill once stood; the town office is open only three days a week. An elementary school serves the town, but middle and high school students have to travel by bus to Camden.

Army Spc. Joshua Ut Humble was buried in Pine Grove Cemetery in his hometown of Appleton after being killed by a roadside bomb near Baghdad. Photo by William Morgan

My wife and I drove down a road with an Abenaki name and across the Saint George River, up a steep hill to a ridge, in search of a barely marked turnoff. We bumped along a rutted dirt track to one of those ancient New England burying grounds with slate steles carved with primitive angels.

The grave we searched for was not under the elegiac oaks and dark conifers, but in the new part. This half of the cemetery has few trees, and the gravestones tend to be more elaborate, colored and polished. Many are adorned with plastic flowers, teddy bears and other tributes of contemporary mourning. The vertical marble slab we were visiting had not been tended in a while. Veterans of Vietnam and the Persian Gulf rest nearby.

On Feb. 26, 2006, Joshua Humble, a specialist in the famed winter warriors of the 10th Mountain Division, was killed near Baghdad by a roadside bomb – the 2,385th soldier to die in Iraq. Humble had just turned 21. A regimental honor guard stood by his coffin at a funeral home in Belfast, then followed the hearse to Appleton for burial.

Thousands of kids died in the Iraq War. What was so special about one from an agricultural community in Maine? Was he like so many soldiers: high school, limited local prospects and maybe a desire to get away from small-town life?

A newspaper obituary shows a face of aching innocence. His middle initial was intriguing: Did the “U.” stand for Ulysses, Uriah or maybe Uncas? His stone revealed that the U. was for Ut, an Asian anomaly in an all-white Appleton.


Josh Humble is remembered primarily through an ongoing memorial on There have been 47 comments since Humble’s death, most from buddies in arms who speak of his heroism. Five years ago, Julie Lee from the Maine town of Washington recalled Josh as “a respectful kid with a fun sense of humor.” She added, “Your sacrifice for our country will not be forgotten.”

Yet recent war deaths such as Humble’s have been forgotten – only an average of three notes a year on an obituary and memorial website is not much of a remembrance. These are the young men and women of a volunteer military who carried the load while the rest of us did not face roadside bombs in the desert.

I was drafted in 1966 but was determined not to be sent to Vietnam. After passing my Army physical, I implored an orthopedic surgeon – my college roommate’s father – to write a letter outlining how a skiing injury would make me unfit for basic training. Contemporaries who did not have such connections went to Southeast Asia, and some died there. Maybe unforgetting one Maine soldier would offset the shadow of my not having donned a uniform.

Since reading of Josh Humble’s death 15 years ago, we had talked of paying our respects at his final resting place. It was a bucolic, almost secret, graveyard on a perfect autumn day. I was glad we went. But as I placed a stone on Josh’s marker, I did not feel peace or closure. Instead, I was overcome by a rage that took me back to the protests of my youth. For me, Joshua Humble symbolizes the tragedy of nonsensical wars that robbed hundreds of places like Appleton of their young people and their future.

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