2013-04-04 / Community

Local company wins contract to help build national monument

Sculpture in San Antonio is dedicated to U.S. military dogs
By Stephanie Sumell


HEROES, TOO—This computer rendering depicts the yet-to-be completed National Monument for Military Working Dog Teams, which will be located at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. HEROES, TOO—This computer rendering depicts the yet-to-be completed National Monument for Military Working Dog Teams, which will be located at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. A local construction company has its paws on a project to honor the military’s four-legged heroes.

Last month, Ahern Construction Corporation of Westlake Village began the permitting process and other preliminary work for the National Monument for Military Working Dog Teams, which will be at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.

A dedication ceremony for the national monument—the first to pay tribute to animals of any kind—is planned for October.

Approved by President George W. Bush in 2008, the monument has two sections.

Surrounded by seven benches, the first section will include a bronze sculpture of a modern-day soldier with sculptures of four working dogs of various breeds at his side.


CANINE TRIBUTE—Paula Slater, a resident of Hidden Valley Lake, Calif., will sculpt the monument’s statues, including a 9-foot-tall dog handler shown here. The statues will be cast in bronze by Artworks Foundry in Berkeley. 
FILE PHOTO CANINE TRIBUTE—Paula Slater, a resident of Hidden Valley Lake, Calif., will sculpt the monument’s statues, including a 9-foot-tall dog handler shown here. The statues will be cast in bronze by Artworks Foundry in Berkeley. FILE PHOTO Behind the sculptures will stand five flags representing the five branches of the U.S. military and a wall with images of war dogs in action.

The second section will feature a sculpture of a Vietnam soldier pouring water into his helmet for his dog to drink. It will provide fresh drinking water to dogs that visit the site with their owners.

“As a contractor, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Tim Ahern, the construction company’s CEO.

The $1.7-million effort is the brainchild of John Burnam, a retired master sergeant in the United States Army.

Now a senior technical writer and editor for Bart and Associates Inc., a software company in McLean, Va., Burnam handled two German shepherd scout dogs and a sentry dog while serving in the Vietnam War.

His monument design honors all working canines and their handlers from World War II through the War on Terror. In the Vietnam War alone, an estimated 230 dogs were killed in action.

“It’s such a small but important group of specialists,” said Burnam, the author of two books on military dogs, “Dog Tags of Courage” and “A Soldier’s Best Friend.”

“They guarded aircrafts, ammunition dumps and night areas where (soldiers) did not want the enemy to penetrate. Scout dogs led people in hunting the enemies.”

Burnam, the recipient of 12 military service awards, said the monument will represent a story that is not often told.

“These dogs couldn’t be replaced by equipment,” he said. “They saved lives.”

Ahern earned a contract of more than $200,000 last month to engineer and construct a steel and reinforced-concrete foundation that will support the monument’s 3,000-square-foot granite plaza and larger-than-life bronze statues.

His company will also install an electrical in-ground lighting system, five military service flags with poles, water equipment for the fountain and landscaping along the monuments’ circumference.

Ahern, a Thousand Oaks resident, was referred to Burnam by Joey Herrick, the president of Natural Balance Pet Foods Inc., the monument’s main corporate sponsor.

After inviting Burnam to speak on his cable show “Who Let the Dogs Out” in May 2011, Herrick became interested in the monument project and suggested Ahern as a possible general contractor.

Ahern has completed two projects for Herrick’s home.

“I’m so happy (Ahern is) doing the foundation for this important monument,” Herrick said in a press release. “Tim Ahern has done numerous construction projects for me over the years and always with great craftsmanship, on time and on budget.”

Ahern opened the construction company in 1985 after working as a custom pool artist.

With the support of his wife, Susanne, the company’s president, he has had the opportunity to work on a variety of goodwill projects.

In 2005, the father of five was the general contractor for the ABC television show “Extreme Home Makeover.”

Eager to see bring the monument project to fruition, he said he is grateful for Burnam’s and Herrick’s confidence in his abilities.

“It feels good to do things that matter,” Ahern said. “I’m very, very blessed.”

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