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USMC Service Dog Earns Highest Military Honor… from the British
The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) has been recognizing the gallantry and bravery of military service animals since World War II. The Dickin Medal, recognized worldwide as the highest honor a military animal can earn receive, is often called the animal version of the Medal of Honor or Victoria Cross. Before 2016 their ranks numbered 67 animals. This year the military service dog Lucca made the number 68.
An Angel Among Devil Dogs
US Marines are often referred to as Devil Dogs, a name earned for their tenacity and toughness during World War II. Lucca, a Belgian Malinois – German Shepherd mix, has a different temperament. Lucca is a carefree and loving dog that one would hardly recognize as a skilled military service animal trained to sniff out explosive devices. As loyal as any soldier, she is more likely to lick you than to ever growl.
Joining the US Marine Corps in 2006, Lucca participated in over 400 missions in Afghanistan and Iraq over a six year period. She discovered several dozen Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and directly supported the capture of a number of IED building insurgents. She served proudly and bravely with her combat brothers until retiring after her final mission in March of 2013. It is estimated that her action provided safe protection through her detection of IEDs for thousands of soldiers.
Lucca’s Last Mission as a Military Service Dog
While on patrol with her handler, Corporal Juan Rodriguez, Lucca moved ahead to indicate the presence of an IED. The very large IED was safely destroyed and Lucca promptly began a secondary search of the area. During this search a smaller IED detonated near Lucca resulting in burns to her chest and severely injuring one of her front legs. Lucca’s fellow soldiers acted quickly to provide first aid, fearing the worst.
Recovery and Retirement
Immediately upon completion of first aid and the the application of a tourniquet, Lucca was airlifted to the nearest medical center. There she was stabilized before flying back to Germany and then to the Marine Corps base at Camp Pendleton. At Camp Pendleton Lucca had surgery to have her front left leg amputated and begin the journey of recovery.
Lucca now lives in California with her original handler, Gunnery Sgt Christopher Willingham. She is comfortable and happy while spending her days with Willingham doing his “best to keep her in well-deserved retirement.”