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'He paid the ultimate sacrifice' | Blaine native dedicates memorial bench to fallen comrade

The dedication ceremony will take place June 11 from 12 - 2 p.m. at Veteran’s Memorial Park in front of Blaine City Hall.

BLAINE, Minn. — Memorial Day is a time to reflect and remember those who sacrificed their lives for freedom.

"He was someone you can count on," said Blaine native, Eric Bakken.

Bakken first met 26-year-old U.S. Army SPC Eric Finniginam as a soldier stationed in Fort Carson.

"He was born and raised in Yap, Micronesia," he said. "I'm born and raised in Blaine, and I don't think we would have ever met if it wasn't for the military."

The two quickly created an unbreakable bond. "I called his mom, 'Mom,'" he said. "He called my mom, 'Mom.'"

Both were later deployed to Afghanistan, then tragedy struck in 2010, just one month after Finniginam became a U.S. citizen. 

"We had a lot of really hard missions, we lost a lot of really good guys, and towards the end of the deployment, May 1, unfortunately he was killed," said Bakken. "It was the worst pain I ever felt in my life, and I still carry it around quite a bit."

Since then, Bakken has never forgotten the friends he lost in combat. He even named his now 7-year-old daughter Finley Ligow, after his fallen comrade. 

And 12 years after his death, Bakken started a fundraiser to honor him, raising more than $30,000 to buy a memorial bench and fly Finniginam's family and daughter here from the Yap Islands in Micronesia.

"My ultimate goal is when they show up, I want them to see how grateful we are that they gave us their son, and he came to a country he believed in, and he ultimately paid the ultimate sacrifice and gave his life for it," he said.

The memorial bench will be dedicated in the Veteran's Memorial Park right across from Blaine City Hall on June 11, from 12- 2 p.m. 

Bakken is asking fellow Minnesotan's to line the streets to show support. 

He says Finniginam's family and fellow comrades will be in attendance.

For more information, visit the event page here

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