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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The Marine Corps League in Tuscaloosa hosted a special soldier Tuesday.
Lucca is one of the countless four-legged soldiers that have served with the armed services since World War II.
Taking a quick glance at Lucca, you would think she was like any other dog. She loves her chew toy and welcomes any and all affection. But if you look closer, you can see she has a story to tell.
“She was leading a patrol. They were about four hours into it. Lucca located an IED; it was her second IED during the patrol. While she was searching for the secondary device, it detonated and took off her front left paw,” Marine Gunnery Sgt. Chris Willingham said.
Lucca’s left paw was blown off, and her leg had to be amputated after that incident last March in Afghanistan. Willingham, her owner, said she was fortunate she wasn’t killed or left with a lifelong list of complications.
“She was extremely lucky. She had no permanent eye damage, no permanent hearing damage, no internal shrapnel. It was mainly damage to her left front foot,” he said.
Without hesitation, Willingham said Lucca helped keep hundreds of people safe.
“She’s led countless patrols. She’s out front, she had numerous finds when I was with her. She had numerous finds with Cpl. Rodriguez. I mean there’s no doubt she’s saved lives,” Willingham said.
In just 10 days, Willingham said, she was back up and walking. And her demeanor never changed.
“She maintained the same spirit, which means she’s the same Lucca. It didn’t really affect her. She’s been through a lot. Through fire fights, been close to mortars and she was that close to an IED and she’s still got the same spirit, same personality,” Willingham said.
It took close to a month for Lucca to recover. And while she’ll never go back to combat service, she’s not minding retirement. Willingham has officially adopted her.
Lucca now serves as the face of the National Military Working Dog monument. She and Willingham will travel with the monument around the country until it is installed in Texas later this year.