The Dickin Medal

Being the mom of a Marine who just returned from deployment, as well as another son who served in the Army, and the wife of a retired Captain in the Air Force, Memorial Day is sacred.  Just like Veteran’s Day.  And it is no secret that dogs have a huge place in all of our hearts and homes.  So, why not combine the two for the blog post this week?

The PDSA Dickin Medal is the highest honor an animal can receive while serving in a military conflict.  It is the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross.  To receive this honor, the animal must display outstanding acts of bravery or devotion.  The PDSA Dickin Medal is a large, bronze medallion bearing the words “For Gallantry” and “We Also Serve” all within a laurel wreath. The ribbon is striped green, dark brown and sky blue representing water, earth and air to symbolise the naval, land and air forces.

Lucca, a retired US Marine Corp dog, completed over 400 missions as a search and rescue dog, protecting thousands of troops.  Lucca and her handler went in first to ensure the safety of those who followed.  On her final patrol of six years of service in March of 2012, an IED detonated under her resulting in the loss of her leg. Cpl Rodriguez (her handler), said: “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.”  Cpl Rodriguez never left her side during her recovery.

Lucca is now retired and lives with Gunnery Sergeant Chris Willingham (pictured), who she served with in Afghanistan, and his family in California. Chris Willingham, said: “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…Today, I do my best to keep her spoiled in her well-deserved retirement.”

Thanks Lucca and all of the military dogs who keep our soldiers safe.  Thanks to all of the men and women who didn’t make it home.  Freedom is so precious and on Monday, please take some time to honor those who served and didn’t return, and to thank those who serve and have served.