US War Dog Receives Highest Honor for Military Service

Leah Barkoukis
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Posted: Apr 07, 2016 7:30 PM
US War Dog Receives Highest Honor for Military Service

Military working dogs save countless lives on the battlefield, so it’s only fitting that they too get some recognition for their hard work. Lucca, a 12-year-old German Shepherd, is just the latest example of these four-legged war heroes.

Trained to sniff out explosives, Lucca completed more than 400 missions throughout her six years of service with the military. It’s estimated that she saved thousands of lives, including U.S. troops, allied forces, and locals, while she served in Afghanistan and Iraq. The true number, of course, is impossible to know.

Throughout her service there was not a single human casualty during any of her patrols. Unfortunately, however, her last one was in March of 2012 when she and her handler found a 30-lb IED in Afghanistan. While they searched, a second bomb exploded, injuring Lucca but miraculously no one else.

Her front left leg had to be amputated and she suffered severe burns to the chest, but after being medevaced to Germany for recovery, she was up and walking again a mere 10 days later.

This week her incredible service and heroism were honored in London, where Lucca received the PDSA Dickin medal, which is the highest honor any animal can receive while serving in military conflict. According to the PDSA website, it is widely recognized as the animal version of receiving the Victoria Cross, and “acknowledges outstanding acts of bravery or devotion to duty displayed by animals serving with the Armed Forces or Civil Defence units in any theatre of war throughout the world.”

Lucca, who has since been adopted by one of her previous handlers, accepted the medal during a ceremony at the Wellington Barracks. She’s the first Marine Corps working dog to receive the award.

“Lucca is very intelligent, loyal and had an amazing drive for work as a search dog,” said her owner Gunnery Sergeant Willingham.

“In addition to her incredible detection capabilities, Lucca was instrumental in increasing moral for the troops we supported. In between missions, I took the searching harness off and let her play and interact with the troops.

“Due to her personality, demeanor and proficiency as a search dog, Lucca made friends wherever she went. Today, I do my best to keep her spoiled in her well-deserved retirement.”

Lucca was responsible for discovering a number of IEDs and apprehending four insurgents.

“Lucca’s conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty makes her a hugely deserving recipient of the PDSA Dickin Medal,” said Jan McLoughlin, director general of the PDSA. “Her ability and determination to seek out arms and explosives preserved human life amid some of the world’s fiercest military conflicts.”

Bravo, Lucca!