In Honor of Memorial Day, May 25, 2020
The Homecoming of Lucca, Warrior Dog, U.S. Marine Corps
On March 23, 2012, Lucca, a U.S. Marine Corps bomb sniffing dog, was wounded in a roadside bomb explosion while on patrol in Afghanistan. That day was Lucca’s last combat patrol.
U.S. Marine Corporal Juan Rodriguez, one of Lucca’s handlers, said that “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.”
Lucca was evacuated from Afghanistan to Germany for treatment, then moved to the U.S. Marine Corps Base at Camp Pendleton, California to complete her recovery. “She had her surgery, and amazingly within 10 days, she was walking around again.” The best part is that she has the same personality as she had before the blast.”
Earlier that day, while on patrol searching for bombs, Lucca had found a weapons cache in a poppy field, and an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) that was successfully cleared. Later, as Lucca was searching for other weapons, a second bomb detonated. In the blast, Lucca lost her left front leg and suffered burns, but Lucca protected her people. No human Marines were injured.
Lucca, a veteran Marine of over six years active combat service, had successfully completed more than 400 missions, protecting the lives of thousands of U.S. Marines and other allied soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. There was never a single human casualty during any of her patrols.
Lucca was recognized for her years of service and heroism. The 12 year old German shepherd received the prestigious Dickin Medal, the animal equivalent of the British Victoria Cross, which is the highest military award for valor in the United Kingdom.
The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA), a British charity, has been awarding the PDSA Dickin Medal since 1943. It is the highest honor that any animal in the world can achieve for military service. Only 66 have ever been awarded. Lucca is the first American dog to receive this British medal.
“Lucca’s conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty makes her a hugely deserving recipient of the PDSA Dickin Medal,” Jan McLoughlin, PDSA’s director general, said in a statement. “Her ability and determination to seek out arms and explosives preserved human life amid some of the world’s fiercest military conflicts.”
U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant Chris Willingham, who now cares for Lucca, knows for sure, “She is the only reason I made it home to my family, and I am fortunate to have served with her. In addition to her incredible detection capabilities, Lucca was instrumental in increasing morale for the troops we supported.”
Today, Lucca lives in California as a retired U.S. Marine Corps veteran. She spends her days visiting schools and attending community events. Lucca has never let her injuries stop her, and every day she enjoys a happy and active life. Lucca is beloved in her family, and by everyone who meets her.
Thank you for your service, Lucca . . . Reverence to the Brave, Honor to the Fallen . . . a blessed Memorial Day to everyone who loves you, and to everyone you love.