After 8 years of dreaming, the Guardians of Freedom Memorial that honors veterans and their war dogs is finally here.

Over 100 people, including two special guests, gathered on Mohawk Street in Herkimer to witness the officially unveiling of the Herkimer Guardians of Freedom Memorial.

The statue is of United States Marine Corps Sergeant Adam Cann, who lost his life to a suicide bomber in 2006, and his loyal dog, Bruno.

Honoring Sgt. Cann

Cann was the first Military K-9 handler to die in combat since the Vietnam War. He died weeks before his 24th birthday on January 5, 2006 when serving in Afghanistan.

Courtesy Herkimer Guardians of Freedom Memorial
Courtesy Herkimer Guardians of Freedom Memorial

Bruno detected explosives shortly before the suicide bomber detonated them, and survived because Cann shielded him with his body. Cann also threw himself onto two fellow Marines, who survived the attack.

Because of Cann's sacrifice, he was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star for Valor.

Bruno later recovered and passed away in 2011.

Sgt. Cann's Family Was at the Unveiling

Sgt. Cann’s parents, Leigh and Carol Cann, traveled all the way from Florida to see the monument.

His mother spoke with WKTV about the unveiling ceremony:

It’s such a beautiful tribute to all the dog handlers that have sacrificed for our country. To have Adam as the statue representing this beautiful memorial, was just such an honor.

The monument isn't complete. PLans are in motion to construct a wall near the statue, which will depict other K-9 handlers that served the nation's military.

Donations are needed for the construction and a GoFundMe has since been created. You can donate to it HERE.

8 Years of Planning

Groundbreaking on the new memorial started eight years ago with critical support from John Brezinski, a local legislator and the Chairperson of the Guardians of Freedom Memorial.

Brezinski's vision was to honor veterans and the dogs that dutifully served by their side.

Courtesy Herkimer Guardians of Freedom Memorial
Courtesy Herkimer Guardians of Freedom Memorial

He previously told WKTV:

I was trying, somehow, to honor the four legged soldiers... the veterans, the four legged dogs that served since before World War I. These dogs are very very important to people that are in these wars because of their noses and their senses. They're very valuable to the veterans that fight these wars.

As for the soldier who will be immortalized with this statue, Brezinski set out to locate a photo of a veteran and their trusty companion.

He consulted Tim Trainor and Rob Jenkins to find a photo of a soldier and their war dog. That led him to Sgt. Adam Cann and Bruno.

Brezinski was moved by Cann's story and called his family in Florida to ask if he could design the monument in his honor. He was granted legal permission.

Cann's parents were among the first people to see the completed statue.

Designed by Lena Toritch

The bronze sculpture was created by Lena Toritch, who hails from Utah.

Courtesy Herkimer Guardians of Freedom Memorial
Courtesy Herkimer Guardians of Freedom Memorial

The official website for the Herkimer Guardians of Freedom Memorial said of Toritch:

Lena Toritch, MFA, creates detailed bronze statues of many shapes and sizes. From animals to humans of every age, Toritch is skilled in making these statues in the likeness of individuals.

Those wishing to honor Cann and those we lost to combat can visit the official statue now in Herkimer.

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Gallery Credit: Rob Banks

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