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Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton

"The West Coast's Premier Fleet Marine Force Training Base"

Fallen Marine K-9 handler not soon forgotten

By Pfc. Daniel Boothe | | November 2, 2009

March Air Base’s Field Air Museum will soon immortalize a fallen Pendleton Marine and first Marine K-9 handler killed in action since the Vietnam War.

Sgt. Adam L. Cann was killed in 2006 when his German shepherd closed in on a suspicious-looking man who quickly detonated a 40-pound vest of explosives. The shrapnel-filled blast killed 27 Iraqi volunteers and a U.S. soldier outside a police recruitment center located 68 miles west of Baghdad.

The Riverside museum will hang a handcrafted kennel sign that Cann was finishing for his unit, prior to his death, in their recently opened Military K-9 Heritage Exhibit. The exhibit was dedicated to the museum by the K-9 veteran sponsored Feed the Dawgs project, Oct. 17.

“We are going to put the sign in a position of honor and respect for everyone that goes into the museum doors to see,” said Kenneth Neil, retired Air Force dog handler and Feed the Dawgs ambassador. “This sign will honor all dog handlers from all wars and all services, from World War I to present day.”

Camp Pendleton’s K-9 unit contacted the veteran handler organization when the sign was almost lost to construction in an effort to preserve and honor Cann’s legacy, according to Camp Pendleton K-9 staff.

“Sgt. Cann was an outstanding Marine,” said Gunnery Sgt. Anthony W. Smit, military police officer with Camp Pendleton’s K-9 unit and Cann’s kennel master in Iraq. “His enthusiasm was infectious. Anybody that ever worked for him could tell you that.”

Cann’s sacrifice prevented the assailant from reaching the crowd around the Air Ramadi police recruitment center where thousands of Iraqi volunteers and a number of U.S. forces stood. Twenty-three-year-old Cann was posthumously awarded a Purple Heart and Bronze Star with a combat “V” device for valor. Iraq’s Camp Cann was also named in his honor.

“He was a great friend, great person and great handler,” said Aubrey L. Kollatschny, Camp Pendleton Police Officer, K-9 handler and three-year friend of Cann’s. “He always put himself out there for everyone else. He was even working on his day off when it happened and saved a lot of people.”

Cann’s dog Bruno was also seriously wounded from the pellet packed explosive, but survived and was also decorated with a Purple Heart. Bruno still works for Camp Pendleton’s K-9 unit today.

This sign is a tribute to Sgt. Cann’s selfless service and sacrifice and anything we can do to tell more people his story is an honor, said Smit.

Cann’s heroism was recognized with full military honors and is buried in Virginia’s Arlington National Cemetery alongside more than 300,000 fellow fallen service members.