walter reed national military center

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In honor of Veteran’s Day, meet Lucca, an amputee veteran who served six years in the United States Marine Corps as a Specialized Search Dog. During that time, she spent two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. She led “over 400 patrols,” all of which resulted in no injuries. For her first two tours she was accompanied by her handler, Gunnery Sgt. Chris Willingham.

In March of 2012, Lucca located a planted explosive while she was leading a patrol in Afghanistan with her second handler, Cpl. Juan Rodriguez. While protecting her platoon, a secondary explosive was detonated. Her fellow Marines were safe, but Lucca suffered burns and a major injury to her front left leg in the attack. Cpl. Rodriguez’s quick thinking got Lucca to safety. Lucca’s left front leg had to be amputated, but she recovered quickly and was walking just ten days after her surgery.

Lucca’s injury led to her retirement and shortly after, she was adopted by her original handler, Gunnery Sgt. Chris Willingham. Willingham credits Lucca with saving his life on numerous occasions, and now in her retirement Lucca gets to enjoy her days as a “family pet” with him. She even gets the booth seat when they go out to dinner!

Lucca also makes frequent visits to wounded warriors and veterans at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and Fort Belvoir Community Hospital, where she “makes a dramatic impact on the lives of service members.” Lucca’s “unwavering positive attitude” serves as an inspiration to everyone she meets. Her amputation hasn’t thwarted her enthusiasm and positivity for life.

Lucca’s hard work and loyalty is the reason countless of service members returned home to their families safely.

And now, it’s Lucca’s turn to enjoy all of her days with her own family.

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Bloodied but unbowed.

Cpl. Tyler J. Southern and Cpl. Todd Love plot a course on the map during the land navigation part of corporals course at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Bethesda, Maryland. These Marines were part of the first Wounded Warrior Detachment corporals course.

The graduating class of the first Wounded Warrior Detachment corporals course at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Bethesda, Md., Jan. 16.

(Photos by Lance Corporal Daniel Wetzel, 12-16 JAN 2012.)