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.

        As Veterans Day approaches, take some time to understand the significance of this holiday and what you can do to show much needed support for veterans. Although Veterans Day, which celebrates all military veterans, is not as looked forward to as Memorial Day because it doesn’t come with a work holiday, it is almost more important. Memorial Day celebrates only those who passed away in the line of duty, but it leaves out veterans who have returned home from service and struggle with a variety of issues that range from lost limbs to severe PTSD. So, what can you do to show support for these veterans this Veterans Day?

Thank them for their service

Thanking a veteran for their service is a simple thing that can make a struggling veteran’s day. People serve in the military to protect you and the freedoms you enjoy. A simple “thank you for your service” shows support for the service of a veteran that is too often taken for granted. To take it above and beyond take the time to ask the veteran about his or her service, but be sure to avoid questions veterans hate like “have you killed anybody?”

Show up to a local event

There are hundreds of Veterans Day events going on across the United States. Find an event and get out to show your support for local veterans. Local parades are a great way to show veterans that the community supports them and appreciates their sacrifices. You can find a list of Veterans Day parades in your area at https://www.vetfriends.com/parades/.

Donate

Donating to veterans charities is the best way to show your support for Veterans returning home. Showing support for veterans in your local community is a great way to show your appreciation for their service, but it is also important to remember that there are still hundreds of thousands of veterans across the United States that struggle to get the care they need. A donation to a charity supporting veterans helps these organizations go above and beyond the lackluster support provided to most veterans.

 

As a non-profit organization supporting veteran’s causes, Vets Vehicles is proud to help you donate your vehicle to a selection of wonderful charities. Charities we support include AMVETS, Fisher House Foundation, Marine Toys for Tots, and the Special Operations Warrior Foundation. You can find more information on these charities on our website at www.vetsvehicles.org