Lucca is a 12-year-old German shepherd and a U.S. Marine Corps-trained veteran. And she is soon to be decorated.
Now retired, Lucca completed more than 400 missions in Iraq and Afghanistan during her six years of active service. On her final mission, she discovered a 30-lb. improvised explosive device (IED). While continuing the search for additional munitions, another IED detonated. Lucca suffered severe burns and lost her right front leg in the blast.
“The explosion was huge and I immediately feared the worst,” her former handler, Corporal Juan Rodriguez, told the BBC. “I stayed with her constantly throughout her operation and 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.”
Though Lucca now lives a retiree’s life in California with a new handler, Gunnery Sergeant Chris Willingham, she has been flown to London to accept the Dickin Medal at a ceremony at the city’s Wellington Barracks.
An honor founded in 1943, the Dickin Medal is awarded by the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA), a charity. PDSA Director, Jan McLoughlin, praised Lucca’s gallantry and devotion to duty. It has been bestowed upon animals who have served in military conflicts – dogs, messenger pigeons, horses and one cat. Lucca will be the 67th animal to receive the honor.