With each stitch, Home of the Brave Quilts honors two fallen South Florida heroes

A national group found two Broward auto-company quilters to make symbols of warmth and comfort for the grieving parents of young men killed in action.

11/10/2012 5:52 PM

11/11/2012 1:59 PM

By now, they should have been veterans.

Tech Sgt. Tim Weiner should be 41, retired from the Air Force, living near his brothers — also veterans — in Colorado.

Sgt. Adam Cann should be 30, out of the U.S. Marines, maybe back home in Broward County, settled down with one of his many pretty girlfriends.

Instead, they are the lost sons of parents whose pain has hardly abated since their combat deaths in Iraq: Cann in 2006, Weiner in 2007, both after multiple deployments.

Over the years, Leigh and Carol Cann of Davie, and Marcia Weiner Fenster and Pierre Fenster of Lauderhill, have sought emotional comfort in military-related projects.

This Veterans Day, they can add the physical comfort of handmade quilts created in their sons’ honor by a national network called Home of the Brave Quilts.

So far, the group has created and presented 5,365 quilts, based on a Civil War-era pattern, to families of the fallen.

On Thursday, the Canns and Fensters met, for the first time, at Holman Honda in Fort Lauderdale, where Home of the Brave’s Florida coordinator presented their quilts. They embraced and cried, bonding over a loss unique to those who have seen somber military officers on their front porches and known, without being told, that their lives would never be the same.

“I think they would have been good buddies,’’ Marcia Fenster told Leigh Cann.

Also on hand: Angela Adkins and Dana Rankin, the Holman Automotive Group employees who crafted the quilts, square by square, for heartbroken strangers.

Sgt. Adam Leigh Cann was the middle of three boys, born Jan. 25, 1982. He died 20 days shy of his 24th birthday, on Jan. 6, 2006, when a suicide bomber detonated outside a police recruiting center in Ramadi, Iraq.

He was assigned to Security Battalion, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, in California. His unit was attached to the 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force.

Adam and his bomb-detecting dog Bruno were patrolling a crowd when Bruno alerted to the bomber. Adam placed himself against the man, forcing the explosion sideways.

He’s credited with saving Bruno, fellow U.S. fighters and police headquarters. It’s believed that the bomber planned to detonate inside the building.

A U.S. Army officer died, along with 37 Iraqis. Bruno, a German shepherd, later retired to California, where he died at age 7.

Tech Sgt. Timothy R. Weiner was one of four brothers in the active-duty military in the mid-2000s. They have a civilian sister. He was born May 27, 1971, and left a wife and son.

He served in an elite EOD unit: Explosive Ordnance Disposal (bomb disposal). Besides his work in war zones, Tim was part of top-secret security details.

He joked to his mother that the president of the United States couldn’t use a restroom until he’d declared it safe.

“That’s power!’’ he crowed.

He and two other EODs from the 775th Civil Engineer Squadron, based at Hill Air Force Base in Utah, died Jan. 7, 2007, near Camp Liberty, trying to disarm a car bomb.

Adam Cann, a passionate Miami Dolphins fan, “was always active and spirited,’’ said his father, who raised his children alone, after a divorce, then remarried. “He was really funny. He had this laugh to make you smile. And he was a leader among his friends. A lot of people were attracted to him.’’

At 5-foot-9, Adam was smaller than many of his buddies, his father said, but in perfect shape and would always “be the first in a fight. He was a real tough kid, very charismatic.’’

Six girls claiming to be his girlfriend showed up at his Arlington National Cemetery funeral.

After graduating from South Plantation High School and attending culinary school, he joined the Marines, wanting to become a dog-handling military policeman.

When he followed older brother Justin into the military, “I was happy about it,’’ Leigh Cann said. “For any kid who doesn’t want to go to college, it makes them leaders and opens a lot of opportunities. If he lived, there’s no telling what he could have been involved with.’’

Adam wanted to be where the action was, his father said: “outside the wire.’’ He found that action in both Afghanistan and Iraq, where after his death, his buddies named a Forward Operating Base in his honor.

On the day he died, Adam wasn’t supposed to be on duty, but he knew the assignment was dangerous, told his troops to stay at the base, and went out himself.

Both Leigh and Carol Cann work for the Florida Department of Transportation. The building in which they work is now called the Adam Leigh Cann Building. They see his name on a plaque every time they enter and leave the building, at 1000 NW 111th Ave. in Miami-Dade.

Leigh Cann was surprised and pleased when Home of the Brave’s Dawn Kucera called him earlier this year to ask permission to have a quilt made for Adam.

“I felt proud that there are people thinking about military people losing their lives and doing it for them,’’ he said. “You don’t hear much of anything about the war now. . .. I was always pro-troops, but most people don’t remember them and go about their daily life like it’s normal, and those guys are over there living with nothing. They are there for each other.’’

Like Leigh Cann, Marcia Fenster raised her kids by herself. She remarried seven years ago. A great-grandmother, she was exceptionally close to Tim, who once told her: “If our relationship was any closer, it would be illegal.’’

Her son stood 6-foot-4, was “physically beautiful and internally more so,’’ Marcia Fenster said. “He was what every parent wants when the doctor says, ‘It’s a boy.’ He was a good friend and patriot.’’

Tim followed three brothers into the military in 1989 after graduating from Piper High School in Sunrise and marrying at 18. He hoped to fly fighter planes, but his eyesight wasn’t good enough.

“He was thrilled to be selected to be in the bomb squad,’’ said his mother, a retired critical-care nurse. “Tim’s comment to me was, ‘It’s the safest job in the military.’ That was before Desert Storm.’’

Unable to become bar mitzvah at the traditional age of 13, because of his mother’s circumstances, he did so at 26 in full dress uniform, in a joint ceremony with his 13-year-old nephew.

He was on his second deployment to Iraq when he died, and is buried at a national cemetery in Colorado.

“You’re afraid to watch the news and afraid not to watch the news,’’ his mother said. “Every time you hear of a loss, you think, ‘Thank God it’s not my child,’ but then there’s an overwhelming sense of guilt and horror because it’s somebody’s child.’’

Tim’s family started a fund in his memory at Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse, N.Y., where his sister, a nurse, works, to help children who need surgery for head and face deformities.

Marcia Fenster, who raises money for families of military personnel killed in action, knew that’s what her son would have wanted, because of a shattering incident in Iraq.

Preparing to disarm a truck bomb near a base, he went to families encamped nearby and told them to leave. The bomb safely disposed, he rechecked the tents and huts, only to find one family hadn’t left. Shrapnel wounded their little girl’s face.

Tim called his mother and “cried for two solid hours,’’ she said. He told her all he could give the child was his team’s Beanie Baby mascot, pinned to his bomb suit, because, he said, “I couldn’t give her back her face.’’

With the fund, she said, “I always let him know that he will be giving children back their faces forever.’’

For more information about the Home of the Brave Quilt Project, visit homeofthebravequilts.com.

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