BLAINE — Hundreds of community members recently gathered at Veterans Memorial Park in front of Blaine City Hall to remember and honor the life and legacy of U.S. Army Specialist Eric Finniginam. 

While serving in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, 26-year-old Finniginam was killed in action on May 1, 2010. 

 The memorial dedication was organized by U.S. Army veteran Eric Bakken, from Blaine. Bakken, who named his daughter Finley in honor of his close friend, served with Finniginam. Bakken organized a fundraiser that raised nearly $30,000 to purchase a memorial bench.

 Bakken said that because Finniginam was a new American citizen, he did not have a place to call home in the United States. 

 “I would like the city of Blaine and the Veterans Memorial Park of Blaine to be Finn’s honorary home,” said Bakken. “He deserves that for making the ultimate sacrifice for his country.”

 Finniginam was born and raised in Micronesia. He joined the U.S. Army with the goal of gaining U.S. citizenship. He was stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado, and deployed to Afghanistan in 2009. While deployed, he was awarded an Army Commendation Medal for valor for his efforts. In 2010, Finniginam passed his U.S. citizenship test and became a U.S. citizen. A few weeks later, and only a month away from returning home, Finniginam was tragically killed in action after sustaining wounds from a rocket-propelled grenade attack on his unit.

 Finniginam was thrown by the blast but assisted his fellow soldier to safety and effectively suppressed enemy fighting positions, Bakken said. “Finn died a true hero, and paid the ultimate sacrifice for a country that he believed in, fought for and was so eager to be a part of.”

 Finniginam’s family, including his wife and daughter, traveled from Micronesia to attend the June 11 memorial dedication.

 

— Contributed

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