This article is reprinted with much appreciation to the The Summit Project. To read more about these soldiers, and many others who made the ultimate sacrifice, visit www.thesummitproject.org.
Army SPC Cassandra Lee Cassavant
SPC Cassavant, 21, of Cornish, Maine, died on August 3, 2007, while serving in the U.S. Army. Cassandra was born January 1, 1986, in Portsmouth, N.H., the daughter of Christine A. Peabody Hensley and Michael J. Cassavant. Cassandra was assigned to Satellite Communications Specialist at Fort Hood, Texas, at the time of her passing.
To honor Cassandra, her daughter, Chyann, retrieved this stone from Fort Williams, near the Portland Headlight. This is what this stone says about SPC Cassavant:
Cassandra wanted to be an astronaut. She was fun loving and inclusive. She helped others and her constant smile and positive attitude was contagious. She cared for others. She was smart and fun. She emulated the example of Christ in all she did and was very influential in the lives of others. She helped guide others to make good decisions and talk them out of making poor decisions. Cassandra loved her job in the army and was the go-to person for her expertise and her enthusiasm.
There is a great story about a time she raised everyone’s spirits in her army unit when she playfully wrestled with another soldier in the muddy ground. She always seemed to know what others needed, she provided that extra kick to keep them focused and moving forward. She was fortunate to have her choice of her military specialty and she chose Satellite Communications, which she just loved. She loved hiking and had a goal of hiking the Appalachian Trail. She loved to challenge herself mentally and physically, but everything she did, she did with a smile.
Army Staff Sgt. Jessica Wing
Staff Sgt. Jessica Wing, 42, born in Alexandria, Virginia, died on August 27, 2012, in Kuwait City, Kuwait, in a noncombat incident. Jessica was a resident of Glenburn, Maine and on her third deployment, assigned to 1st Battalion, 126th Aviation Regiment, Maine National Guard, Bangor, Maine at the time of her passing. She served in the guard for eight years, and was on active duty in the U.S. Army for eleven years before that.
Jessica was a helicopter crew chief. Her unit provided medical evacuation to patients and military personnel using medically equipped UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters. She was deployed to Haiti and Bosnia while in the army, prior to three tours in the Middle East with the Maine National Guard.
Army CWO3 Tania N. Dunbar
CWO3 Tania N. Dunbar, 40, of Santa Barbara, California, died July 19, 2015, while camping at Freeman Park in Carolina Beach, North Carolina. Tania was an Electronic Missile Systems Maintenance Warrant Officer with 108th Air Defense Artillery Brigade at Fort Bragg.
Tania went to the grocery store in 1998 for some soup. She ended up joining the Army at the recruiting office next to the store. She was so excited that she forgot all about the soup. She was still in the Army – and still loving being in the Army – 17 years later when she died.
She went to AIT in Fort Sill, Oklahoma and during a discussion there, someone said that she was small and didn’t weigh enough to be Airborne, and besides it was too hard for a woman. So, she joined the 82nd Airborne after AIT. Her first deployment was to Kosovo and her last was to the United Arab Emirates. In between, she was deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq on multiple occasions. She earned many medals – among them the Bronze Star for taking on the job of Battalion Electronic Warfare Officer “as an additional duty on top of her daily work load” as well as for her part in equipping the battalion’s vehicles with anti-IED equipment and for training others in how to do the same. To quote part of the very long narrative to accompany the Bronze Star, “Her tracking system for maintenance and upgrades was so impeccable that it was adopted by all EWOs in USF-1… CW2 Dunbar’s tireless diligence and attention to detail directly resulted in the safe return of every challenger Solider traveling outside the wire, an average of 1,000 miles traveled every month.”
Tania’s mother is from Millinocket, Maine. Her Summit stone is from the family’s garden, close to the peonies. It is small and doesn’t weigh a lot, just like Tania.
The Summit Project
The mission of The Summit Project is to honor our state’s post-9/11 fallen service members, and through education, fellowship, and physical activity, provide assurance to their families that these sacrifices will never be forgotten. The Summit Project allows Maine communities to honor our fallen heroes through action. Surviving families unearth and donate stones that uniquely represent their loved ones. Volunteers discover the lives of these heroes, and then carry the stones and their stories on treks throughout6 the state and around the globe. TSP stones and stories have been shared on Katahdin, Cadillac, Kilimanjaro, Everest, Denali, and been carried through parades, marathons, and marches. Each trekker must learn about the fallen hero they choose to honor, carry his/her tribute stone though a physical challenge, and compose a post-event reflection letter addressed to the soldier’s surviving family. One lovely example of these letters, written to the mother of Army SPC Cassandra Lee Cassavant, reads, in part, as follows:
TSP May 24, 2015
Christine: I thank God for the opportunity to carry the “Honor Stone” for your daughter, SPC Cassandra Cassavant. I thank Him also that you, Cassandra’s mother, were on our climbing team and at the base camp all weekend. You and I were drawn to each other. We Gold Star Mothers know and feel what the other carries in her heart.
You shared a lot about Cassie and I listened intently. I shared a lot about my son James and you listened with compassion. We shared about our “mother journey” a lot. When I was assigned Cassandra’s stone to carry, I read her bio and cried a lot. I pondered and carried Cassandra and you, her mother, and young daughter Chyann, every day.
God has given you strength as He has me. Cassandra served our country and protected me and my family for 3 ½ yrs. For that I am so grateful to her. She did well. Her teammates loved her and went to her for guidance and help because she was that “go-to” person in her Satellite Communications Specialty. She helped others with her constant smile (like yours, I think!), and her contagious positive attitude. Cassandra cared for others like Christ does. She did well! I still wish I could have known her and spent time with her – I know she would have encouraged my soul.
And so, being a part of TSP 2015 this weekend has given me understanding and compassion in a way I didn’t have before. Thank You, Christine. In our sorrow together we have grown and I thank God for that. God Bless you, Christine. Gratefully, Jane Zimmerman