Lucca, a 12-year-old German Shepherd, the hero dog who lost a leg, served the US Marine Corps by sniff-detecting explosives and thus protected thousands of troops, has been honored with the highest army medal for animals serving bravely in military operations!
Lucca completed more than 400 missions with the US Marine Corps but unfortunately lost a leg in one of the missions which forced her to retire from active duty.
Jan McLoughlin, director general of the PDSA, said: ‘Lucca’s conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty makes her a hugely deserving recipient of the PDSA Dickin Medal. Her ability and determination to seek our arms and explosives preserved human life amid some of the world’s fiercest military conflicts.’
She is the 67th animal to be honored with the medal, which was founded by vet charity PDSA in 1943 and represents “the highest award any animal in the world can achieve while serving in military conflict”. Since the medal was founded, it has been awarded to 31 dogs, 32 Second World War messenger pigeons, three horses and one cat.
Sgt. Willingham and Lucca served together for two tours in Iraq, and carried out a number of counter-insurgency and clearing operations before she was sent to Afghanistan in 2011.
In Afghanistan, Lucca led 75 patrols in Helmand Province – an area heavily laden with improvised explosive devices. She was specially trained to detect weapons. As she hunted for explosives with her handler Cpl Juan Rodriguez, she was caught in an IED blast that left her fighting for her life. Cpl Rodriguez gave her first aid in the form of a tourniquet, and medics were called to the scene.
After Lucca had made a full recovery, she retired to California and moved in with her former handler, Gunnery Sergeant Chris Willingham who said in a press release that “Lucca is very intelligent, loyal and had an amazing drive for work as a search dog. She is the only reason I made it home to my family and I am fortunate to have served with her. Even when Lucca was injured, her good temperament and gentle nature never faltered. She has become an inspiration to everyone she meets and I am so very proud to see her decorated with this prestigious award.”
Here’s raising a toast to Lucca’s bravery!
Also read about how dogs are helping fight the war against terrorists? And Whizz, the dog who saved 9 lives!