Four of America’s bravest military heroes, who just happen to be dogs, were honored Thursday night for their outstanding achievements and service to our country. A glittering crowd of more than 100 top U.S. military brass, philanthropists, and animal lovers gathered at Brazilian Court in Palm Beach to celebrate the lifesaving accomplishments of the first winners of American Humane’s Lois Pope LIFE K-9 Medal of Courage – the nation’s highest honor for military dogs.
Bestowed by some of the U.S. military’s top leaders on Capitol Hill, the award recognizes and honors extraordinary bravery among the country’s war dogs, each of whom save the lives of an estimated 150-200 service men and women in the course of their careers.
Joining the effort to honor these heroic hounds and support American Humane’s efforts to support our nation’s human and animal warriors were some of the country’s leading human military heroes and celebrities, including American Humane National Ambassador U.S. Army Corps First Sergeant Matt Eversmann (ret.), the hero of Mogadishu whose story of courage is known to millions through the film, “Black Hawk Down.” Sergeant Eversmann shared his story and emphasized the need to support our veterans suffering with Post-Traumatic Stress by providing them with healing service dogs. “My dream is to get a service dog to every veteran that needs one,” said Eversmann. “Please, please support American Humane so we can fight this battle together.”
American Humane board member and United States Marine Corps Colonel Scott Campbell, who serves as Commanding Officer of the Wounded Warrior Regiment in Quantico, Virginia, echoed the importance of these lifesaving service dogs in a special video message, saying, “I have not had a marine commit suicide that had a leash in his hand. Fifty percent of my population suffers the effects of PTSD and the [service] dogs make a huge difference in their recovery and their long-term psychological health.”
American Idol sensation Stefano Langone and the world-renowned Alex Donner Orchestra provided first-class entertainment.
Meet the Winners
MWD Isky and Sgt. Wess Brown
Military Working Dog Isky spent years courageously protecting American leaders and our armed forces, alongside his handler and best friend, U.S. Army Sgt. Wess Brown. The pair was deployed to Afghanistan in July 2013, where Isky went on to save uncounted lives while serving as an explosive-detection dog. During a routine perimeter check, both Sgt. Brown and Isky were struck by IEDs several times and both were injured. In the frantic moments during a combat patrol to avoid an ambush, Isky’s right leg was injured in 6 places, with so much trauma and nerve damage it had to be amputated, forcing him to retire from active military service. But even with three legs, Isky continues to give lifesaving support: he now serves as Sgt. Brown’s PTS service dog.
MWD Bond and Staff Sgt. Justin Edwards
Military Working Dog Bond forged a connection – an unbreakable bond – with his handler, Staff Sgt. Justin Edwards. Bond has worked more than 50 combat missions, and was deployed to Afghanistan three times. Bond put his life at risk every day, using his keen senses, strength, and agility as Multi-Purpose dog in his Special Operations unit to keep our troops safe. However, the toll of combat affected both members of this hero dog team. MWD Bond suffers from combat trauma, once knocking out his own teeth trying to chew himself out of his kennel during a thunderstorm. And his handler, back in the States, found himself in need of his former Battle Buddy. Today, Bond continues to offer him this unconditional support today, not as a military working dog, but simply as his best friend. With the help of American Humane he adopted Bond when the four-legged veteran retired from active military service.
CWD Fieldy and Cpl. Nick Caceres
Contract Working Dog Fieldy bravely served four combat tours in Afghanistan, where he worked tirelessly to detect explosives. Fieldy’s capable, courageous service in tracking down these often-fatal explosives saved an uncounted number of human lives. Fieldy also had a life-changing impact on one Marine in particular: his wartime comrade, U.S. Marine Corps Corporal Nick Caceres. Fieldy served alongside Cpl. Caceres, his handler, for seven months in Afghanistan. With the help of American Humane Cpl. Caceres was reunited with Fieldy when the courageous Labrador was honorably discharged from military service.
MWD Matty and Army Spc. Brent Grommet
Retired Army Specialist Brent Grommet and Military Working Dog Matty developed an unbreakable bond while stationed together in Afghanistan, serving our country as a bomb-detection team. Using his superhuman sense of smell, Matty directed his human handler to hidden IEDs, working day and night to protect our military troops from the deadly bombs. Once, while searching in a bazaar for IEDs their unit walked into an ambush. Matty and Brent went back to the front line and were engaging the enemy when they were hit with a Rocket-propelled grenade, knocking both of them unconscious and giving Brent a traumatic brain injury. After Matty and Brent were driving in a truck that was hit by two roadside bombs, they were flown back to the United States for treatment. Brent had already filled out adoption paperwork but while he was having neurosurgery, Matty was wrongly given to someone else. With American Humane’s help, these two Battle Buddies were reunited.
“I’ve spent much of my life working to support and recognize the extraordinary sacrifices and achievements of America’s military heroes,” said Lois Pope, who worked with American Humane to create the awards, and who conceived and spearheaded the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial, which was dedicated in Washington DC in October 2014 as the nation’s first and only permanent public tribute to the four million living disabled American veterans and all those who have died. “But some heroes haven’t gotten the attention they deserve. Together with American Humane, which has worked with the U.S. military for 100 years, we are ensuring the extraordinary dogs who work side by side with men and women of our Armed Forces are honored for their bravery and service to this country. We can never give too many thanks to those who fight and sacrifice for our freedom.”
“Soldiers have been relying on their four-footed comrades-in-arms since the beginning of organized warfare and today military dogs are more important than ever in keeping our service men and women safe – on the battlefield and on the home front,” said American Humane President and CEO Dr. Robin Ganzert. “At American Humane, which has been working with the U.S. military and military animals for 100 years, we felt it was time to recognize and honor the extraordinary feats and acts of devotion these heroic animals perform every day, and get more lifesaving service dogs to those brave veterans who need them.”
To support American Humane’s military initiatives providing veterans with lifesaving service dogs, please visit http://bit.ly/2lk8iC6.