Last week four incredible dogs were honored at Capitol Hill for the K9 Medal of Courage, the nation's highest honor for military dogs. The award, given for extraordinary valor and service to America, were created by philanthropist and veterans advocate Lois Pope along with the American Humane Society.
“It is important to recognize and honor the remarkable accomplishments and valor of these courageous canines,” said Rep. Gus Bilirakis, co-chair of the Congressional Humane Bond Caucus, which hosted the event. “By helping locate enemy positions, engage the enemy, and sniff out deadly IEDs and hidden weapons, military dogs have saved countless lives in the fight for freedom.”
These are the four pups that were honored, all of which are still playing valuable roles back home.
Retired Army Specialist Brent Grommet credits Matty with saving his life, and the lives of everyone in his unit, more than once. During his time in Afghanistan, the Czech German Shepherd uncovered countless hidden IEDs (improvised explosive devices), but his work didn't stop when he returned home. Brent and Matty suffered through many attacks together, one of which left Brent with a traumatic brain injury. Today, Matty helps Brent manage the debilitating symptoms of both the visible and invisible wounds of war, bringing him a sense of security, calmness, and comfort.
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Fieldy served four combat tours in Afghanistan, saving many lives by tracking down deadly explosives. The Black Labrador had an especially life-changing impact on U.S. Marine Corps Corporal Nick Caceres. Nick says that Fieldy offered invaluable emotional support, providing steadfast companionship, affection, and a sense of normalcy, during a time of unimaginable stress. Today Nick and Fieldy live together in retirement.
Bond has worked more than 50 combat missions, and was deployed to Afghanistan three times as a Multi-Purpose dog in his Special Operations unit. This role requires keen senses, strength, and agility to apprehend enemies and detect explosives. The toll of combat affected the Belgian Malinois' and his handler, who are both struggling with anxiety and combat trauma. Bond will be reunited with his handler in a couple of months to help ease his transition back into civilian life.
Isky has worked not only as an explosive-detection dog in Afghanistan, but also with his handler, U.S. Army Sargent Wess Brown, to safeguard four-star American generals and political personnel, including the Secretary of State in Africa and the President of the United States in Berlin.
While on one combat patrol, Isky's right leg was injured in six places, leaving the German Shepherd with so much trauma and nerve damage that it had to be amputated. But even on three legs, Isky continues to serve alongside Wess. Isky is now Wess' PTSD service dog. Wess says that there isn't a moment when he doesn't feel safe with Isky by his side.
Hats off to these amazing pups!