AVON PARK — A turnout of dozens of veterans and civilians were present at noon Friday for the unveiling of the War Dog Memorial on the front lawn of the Avon Park Community Center on Main Street.

Before the formal program started, Bobby Cullum, who served in the U.S. Navy, 1973-86, said, “I think it is fantastic; I think it is showing that people have the proper respect whether they are human or whether they are animal.”

Joe Murphy noted he was not a veteran, but wanted to see the monument, which he believes is a big plus for the city.

Battle of the Bands Inc. President Anna Marie Feeney, who spearhead the War Dog Memorial effort, told the gathering, “We are very proud to present this.”

She thanked the Lake Placid Moose Lodge for helping raise the funds for the monument and named and thanked those who contributed services and/or materials for the project.

“I would also like to thank the City Council who stood up for us and helped us get this right here, done right, right on time,” Feeney said.

Mayor Garrett Anderson thanked the Lake Placid Moose Lodge and said it was a community effort.

He also thanked a couple of students at Parkview Prep Academy for helping him write a speech for the occasion.

The monument recognizes those who served and died or were injured saving their handlers and those who are currently serving, as well as those who will serve in the future, Anderson said. War dogs are risking their lives along side of their handlers for our freedom every day.

“To all those canines who have served in any capacity, we give our heartfelt thanks for their courage, loyalty and love. We salute you,” he said. “We hereby dedicate this memorial to the memories of those dogs who have gone before and those yet living who are still serving in our nation’s armed forces around the world.”

Lake Placid Moose Lodge Governor Bill Wernersbach said, “The Lake Placid Moose Lodge is very honored to be included in this, to give back to our veterans both two-legged and four-legged.”

The stone monument features a 5-foot tall soldier, two German shepherds and other figures.

The honor guard from the Sebring VFW Post 4300 presented the colors and provided a 21-gun salute.

Cadets from the Avon Park High Air Force Junior ROTC assisted with the unveiling.

After the ceremony, Feeney said she was grateful for the turnout.”I am amazed; I started getting word of how many people might just come and the turnout was amazing,” she said. “I am expecting this to be a major attraction for this town for a long time.”

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