Thanksgiving is a day to count our blessings, love our families, and honor our heroes – whether they stand on two legs, four legs, or three.
Marine hero Lucca K458, now the star of the new book Top Dog, is a German Shepherd mix who sniffed out explosives during her military service. During almost six years of military service, Lucca deployed to war three times, leading more than 400 missions where no human was injured. While she lost a leg during her service, she never lost her courage – and she earned a Purple Heart for it.
Now retired and living the good life in Southern California with the Willingham Family, Lucca is both a source of inspiration and a reason to be thankful.
The Today Show featured Lucca on its program this morning, interviewing Staff Sgt. Chris Willingham, Lucca’s owner, who originally trained and handled Lucca as a military service dog.
Your lives are literally in each other’s hands. It was amazing to see how resilient and how well she was able to push through. Whether it was through fire fights, mortar attacks, IEDs,” stated Chris Willingham.
IEDs (improvised explosive devices) were one of the biggest risks to coalition forces in Afghanistan and Iraq – and it was Lucca’s job to locate them on her missions. During one of these missions in the Nahri Saraj District in southern Afghanistan, Lucca smelled IEDs – and then there was an explosion.
Lucca sustained a severe injury to her front left leg during that March, 2012 mission. Her partner at the time, Cpl. Juan Rodriguez, rushed to her aid.
“I ran in, put a tourniquet on to stop the bleeding. I picked her up and we ran to a nearby tree line to get some cover,” he stated.
While Rodriguez saved Lucca’s life that day, her left leg did have to be amputated.
Rodriguez added: “She saved [my life] multiple times, so it was only right.”
While Rodriguez felt guilty about his partner’s injury, the courageous canine hasn’t lost a step – and she still enjoys visits from the soldier who saved her.
“She’s a legend of a dog to me,” stated Rodriguez.
Today, Lucca is living the good life – a much-deserved reward for her service. Our canine military heroes are a reason to give thanks today and every day.
Thank you, Lucca, and to all of the courageous canines who have served in the military. You can read more about these heroes on the Soldier Dogs Facebook page.
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