by Dave Warner

A groundbreaking ceremony was held in Herkimer for the Guardians of Freedom Memorial, honoring military war dogs and their handlers last Friday.

The non-profit group raising money for the project wants to honor this less-acknowledged group and pay tribute to their teamwork, courage, and sacrifices on the battlefield and in our streets by building the memorial.

The statue will depict Armed Forces Military Handler Sergeant Adam Cann and his dog, Bruno. While the two were on deployment in Afghanistan, Bruno reacted to the proximity of an explosive device. At that point, a suicide bomber detonated his device, killing Adam and killing and injuring dozens of civilians.

Adam used his body as a shield to protect two fellow Marines and his military working dog, Bruno. All marines survived except Sgt. Cann. Cann was buried at Arlington Cemetery.

Sgt. Cann received the Bronze Star for Valor and was the first military K-9 handler to die in combat since the Vietnam War.

Bruno remained on active duty after recovering from the attack and passed in 2011.

Herkimer County Legislator John Brezinski heard this touching story and was incredibly moved. He then decided to use Adam and Bruno’s image for the monument.

He stated, “I want to thank everyone for coming today. Today is a powerful day because, on Veterans Day, we have officially completed Phase I of the Guardians of Freedom Memorial with today’s groundbreaking ceremonies.”

Brezinski said that he had wondered why there weren’t more places like this that honored our four-legged K-9s, who have given so much of themselves to protect us.

“It took seven years of non-stop phone calls, interviews, meetings, pondering and pounding the pavement for donations, looking for the perfect example of a military dog and handler, talking with military personnel all over the country, and exchanging ideas about what would be the best location, so that hundreds of people would be able to view the statue.”

He said that it was “A labor of love. It doesn’t matter where Sergeant Cann came from, he was fighting for our country, and he died for all of us.”

“He will represent all dog handlers and their four-legged companions,” Brezinski stated.

LS Power Grid New York contributed roughly $50,000 to help build the memorial, including site preparations, construction, and the addition of walkways.

“LS Power Grid New York is committed to supporting and improving the communities around our projects,” said Vice President Casey Carroll. “In that spirit, we are proud to honor our Veterans and their working dogs by contributing to this memorial.”

LS Power Grid New York partnered with MYR Energy, L.E. Myers, Aldridge Group, and Northern Clearing to provide the services for the project.

The Guardians of Freedom hope to have the bronze statue, which is currently being worked on, delivered next spring and placed on the finished base.

The organization has collected more than $77,000 out of its $350,000 goal and is still raising money to complete the project.

If you are interested in donating, please visit https://www.gofmemorial.org/.

Rendering of what the memorial will look like.

Rendering of what the memorial will look like.