Men and women who perform valiantly in the face of the enemy are not the only military personnel who should be awarded for their courage. This thought is what drove Maria Dickin to establish the Dickin medal through her veterinary charity the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA). The Medal was instituted in 1943 to honor the work of animals during World War II and has since honored 67 military service animals.

The first animals to receive the Dickin Medal were carrier pigeons that carried vital messages that contributed to the rescue of airmen from downed aircraft during 1942 and 1943. The award was given to numerous animals throughout the rest of the war ranging from dog that was killed in combat while saving his human handlers by collecting a live grenade to a pigeon that delivered crucial messages during the battles at Normandy. Unfortunately the award was largely forgotten following World War II, with no recipients between 1950-2000.

The medal made a spectacular resurgence following the attacks of September 11th attacks when it was given to 3 dogs: Appollo, Salty, and Roselle. Apollo received the Dickin medal on behalf of all search-and-rescue dogs that assisted in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks for their collective valor in the face of tragedy. Salty and Roselle were two Labrador guide dogs who received the medal for leading their blind owners down more than 70 flights of stars to escape the burning buildings during the attacks. Since then the Dickin Medal has been seen as a symbol of valor among service animals and has been awarded numerous times to animals who have helped save the lives of their human counterparts during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The latest recipient of the award is Lucca, a retired Marine Corps German Shepard Dog. Lucca received the award for outstanding service in Iraq and Afghanistan. During her six years of service Lucca completed 400 missions without a single casualty to any member of her team. Sadly Lucca lost a leg during her final patrol on March 23, 2012, when she detected an IED that detonated at close range. Lucca uncovered more that 40 IEDs during her two deployments to Iraq and one deployment to Afghanistan. She was honored with the Dickin Medal during a ceremony in London on April 5, 2016. As part of her retirement she will be transferred from her current handler Juan M. Rodriguez (pictured above) to live with her original trainer Gunnery Sergeant Christopher Willingham.

On Thursday Feb. 18th, Connecticut Governer Dannel Malloy announced that it has become the second state to have officially ended veteran homelessness. This follows the lead of Virginia who became the first state to end homelessness for veterans in November. Gov. Malloy credited the success to a cooperative effort between state housing agencies, shelter workers, community groups, and a partnership with the department of veterans affairs. “The most important thing you can do for a family is to give it a safe home, give it a decent home, a home you can sustain yourself and your family in,” he said.

Over the past 12 months the state has found or built homes for over 280 veterans across the state. With all veterans in the state now housed the state has set goals for dealing with incoming veterans in the future. They have vowed that any veteran who is homeless will be placed in temporary housing within 30 days and have a permanent home within 60 days. This is largely due to the $1 billion the state has committed to housing construction. The 16,000 homes they have committed to build over include many affordable low-cost homes.

The state also plans to expand the fight against homelessness to youth and families. Using the housing first approach to eradicating homelessness among veterans, they hope to end homelessness for these groups by 2017.

The Fisher House Foundation works in partnership with the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide free housing on site at military and VA hospitals. These “comfort homes” allow families to stay close to their loved ones in their time of need. This is especially important because veterans often have to travel great distances for specialized medical care and are force to leave their families behind due to exorbitant travel and lodging costs. Fisher House gives these families the gift of togetherness and peace of mind.

The Fisher House Foundation is also one of the most trustworthy and efficient nonprofits. In the most recent ratings Fisher House Foundation received an A+ rating from Charity Watch (for putting a staggering 92% of all donations directly towards program projects) and a 96.87/100 rating from Charity Navigator (due to it’s perfect score in accountability and transparency). This puts Fisher House among the top charities for ensuring that your charity receives the greatest benefit from your donation.

If the character of this charity is not enough to garner your support, the popularity of the cause among many noteworthy supporters may help. Fisher House has recently received large donations from individual and corporate sponsors who hope to improve care for veterans across the United States. These include a $500,000 contribution from Wal-Mart, a $500,000 contribution from Samsung, and a $22,000 individual donation from President Obama. With the support of these large partners, you can be assured that your donation will go towards getting something done.

As 2015 drew to a close, President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act to appropriate funds for military spending in 2016. Although it is a standard and often uneventful peace of legislation, the act came with a special Christmas gift for military service animals. Within the hundreds of pages that made up the bill, there was a provision that will allow military service dogs to return home to the United States for retirement. Previously, military service animals were ineligible for transport back to the U.S. and were often placed in local shelters.

This marks a huge victory for both animal rights groups and veterans care groups who have long been fighting to give military animals a proper and happy retirement. Their service to military operations and personnel is often overlooked despite their incredible life saving contributions. In fact, according to the American Humane Association, each military service dog saves the lives of between 150-200 service men by detecting IEDs and hidden weapons caches.

The law also goes beyond simply bringing these heroic dogs home, it gives the military handlers the first choice in adoptions of these dogs. This makes a huge difference to veterans who have returned home and are struggling to adjust to civilian life. Having a K9 companion who has experienced many of the same traumatic experiences can help veterans combat conditions like PTSD. This offers many retired military dogs the ability retire in comfort while continuing to serve the struggling veterans they love.

“The NDAA and its passage will ensure that our four-legged veterans will finally have their chance to come home and live a comfortable quiet life, hopefully with a handler they deployed with or a fellow veteran.” – Lance Corporal Jeff DeYoung, USMC (Ret.) who was reunited with his military dog Cena (From the American Humane Newsroom)

Credit goes to Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat from Missouri, and Congressman Frank LoBiondo, Republican from New Jersey, who introduced the provision.

This past weekend of college football brought with it one of the most deep-seated rivalries, the Army vs. Navy game. The game is one of the longest running rivalries in sports dating back to 1890. It all began when Cadet Dennis Mahan Michie, who was also the coach of the Army football team, accepted a challenge from the Naval Academy. The game has been played nearly every year since then with only a few years missed due to war or a dispute between the two academies.

This years 125th anniversary of the rivalry saw the continuation of the Navy’s win streak of 14 games against Army. The win streak is the longest in the history of a rivalry that has consistently gone back and forth between two great teams. Three games into their current winning streak Navy took over the series lead against Army. The Series record now stands at 60-49-7 with Navy winning 60 games, Army winning 49 games, and 7 ties.

The game holds a particularly important spot in college football marking the end of the regular season. It was originally played on the Saturday following Thanksgiving, which was the end of most college regular season games, but it has been moved to the weekend following the conference championship games. It marks the final game of the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy which is awarded to the winner of the triangular series between the Military Academy, the Naval Academy, and the Air Force Academy. The winner of the Army v. Navy game also receives the Thompson Cup.