The men and women who put on uniforms and serve our country deserve a lot of respect and admiration. But there is one group that tends to be forgotten.
Military service dogs are heroes, too, and Lucca’s story in particular is worthy of praise.
On March 23, 2012, Lucca was serving in Afghanistan with her platoon sniffing out bombs, and clearing the road for her troops. While doing her extremely dangerous job one day, an explosion went off right in front of Lucca.
During her eight years of service, Lucca has had two handlers, Gunnery Sgt. Christopher Willingham, and Cpl. Juan Rodriguez. Lucca’s handler during her final patrol, Cpl. Rodriguez, talked about the explosion that Lucca suffered through:
“The explosion was huge and I immediately feared the worst for Lucca. I ran to her and saw her struggling to get up. I picked her up and ran to the shelter of a nearby tree line; applied a tourniquet to her injured leg and called the medics to collect us. I stayed with her constantly throughout her operation and her recovery. She had saved my life on so many occasions — I had to make sure that I was there for her when she needed me.”
Through all of her recovery, Cpl. Rodriguez never left Lucca’s side.
Since retiring from service, Lucca has received the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals’ Dickin Medal. This is the highest honor an animal can achieve, and is rewarded for “outstanding acts of bravery or devotion to duty displayed by animals” during times of war.
Her current owner (and original handler) Chris Willingham talks about Lucca being recognized, and how it pays respect to all military canines:
“It is very humbling to be part of this entire process. I think more importantly is that Lucca’s accomplishments are going to help bring awareness and recognition too [sic] all our military working dogs and their handlers.”
During her years of service, Lucca went out on over 400 patrols, and not one Marine was injured that was in her company. Even in the blast that cost Lucca her leg, she was able to keep everyone else safe.
Willingham was worried that the blast, and damage, would have a terrible impact on Lucca’s personality, and behavior. He quickly found out that was not the case at all:
“The best part is that she has the same personality that she had beforehand. For her to be exposed to an IED, to take the injury she suffered, and to still come back with the same personality really speaks to her resiliency, strength and character.”
Lucca is the first American dog to receive the Dickin Medal for Gallantry. Her bravery in the line of duty saved countless lives. She was willing to lay her life on the line for her fellow soldiers, and it cost her a leg.
These days Lucca spends a lot of her time playing outside, chasing tennis balls, and just being a normal dog, even though she is anything but “normal.”
— PDSA (@PDSA_HQ) April 5, 2016
Lucca represents a branch of the military that often gets overlooked, but provides a huge service to our men and women protecting our country. Her efforts has kept men and women safe, and able to return to their families.
Lucca is proof that dogs are indeed man’s best friend!