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Lucca, a German Shepherd/Belgian Malinois mix, served with the U.S. Marine Corps for six years until 2012, when she was injured by an IED in Afghanistan, leading to the amputation of her left leg.
Almost a decade later, the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame is honoring Lucca with a sculpture and award at its 45th Annual Induction Luncheon and Ceremony, scheduled for Oct. 26 at Dickies Arena.
Lucca — or more formally, Lucca K458, USMC — will be the recipient of the Sergeant Reckless Award, which “recognizes animals, individuals, or groups who risk their lives for the betterment of others, and who stand courageously in protection of others,” according to the Cowgirl Museum. The award gets its name from the most decorated war horse in modern history; its first recipient was Robin Hutton, who’s dedicated her life to researching and telling the stories of war animals.
Lucca served six years with the 1 Marine Expeditionary Force, first stationed at Lackland Air Force Base in 2006 before training at MCB Camp Lejeune in 2007 and MCB Camp Pendleton from 2008 – 2012 to detect explosives. In three combat tours, she led more than 400 patrols in Afghanistan and Iraq, credited with over 40 confirmed finds of insurgents, explosives, and ammunition — with no human casualties.
After losing her leg in 2012, Lucca retired and was adopted by her original handler, Gunnery Sergeant Chris Willingham. She died peacefully in 2018.
Lucca has a statue titled “Send Me,” created by artist Jocelyn Russell, currently on display at the Cowgirl Museum’s Alice Walton Cowgirl Park. Her other honors include the Animals in War & Peace Medal of Bravery No. 6 and Great Britain’s PDSA Dickin Medal No. 67 — she was the first U.S. Marine Corps dog to receive the award.
The Cowgirl Museum’s luncheon will also honor 2021 hall of fame inductees including Pop Chalee, Lavonna “Shorty” Koger, and Miranda Lambert. Find more information about the event here.