Sasha, a yellow Labrador, has been posthumously awarded the Dickin Medal, the animal equivalent of Britain's highest military honor. In Afghanistan, she saved several lives by locating 15 caches of hidden bombs and weapons. Regrettably, while the UK honors its animals that serve in the military, the US does not.
Sasha was killed along with her handler, Lance Corporal Kenneth Rowe, in a Taliban ambush. Rowe's mother Lyn welcomed the award: "Kenneth always adored animals and loved working with his dogs. He took his role protecting his fellow soldiers very seriously. We are so proud of him and he would be incredibly proud that Sasha's bravery is being recognized."
As Michael Peck writes at the blog, War Is Boring:
If an American war dog receives recognition, it's from a civilian organization. Gabe, a U.S. Army dog who completed 200 combat missions in Iraq before retiring, was named the 2012 American Hero Dog by the American Humane Association.
"There are not any medals given to the military dogs, only the handlers," [says] Ron Aiello, of the United States War Dogs Association. "You hear every now and then that a dog has been given a Purple Heart or a Bronze Star. This is usually done on a unit level and is not recognized by the military or the Department of Defense."
In 2012, Congress passed a law that mandated better care for retired military dogs, including having the military pay to return them to the United States, rather than forcing the adopting family to pick up travel expenses. The law also called for the Pentagon to create some sort of recognition for military dogs.
A unit's commanding officer or kennel master is now allowed to issue an achievement certificate to a dog, Aiello said. "Our organization has been trying for years to get the DoD to issue a Service Award Medal specifically for military dogs, but they keep saying no."
The Pentagon is again considering whether to issue medals to drone operators and cyberwarriors. If the military can bestow medals to personnel serving far from any combat zone, it should also award them to dogs and other animals who serve in active fighting.
The medals may not mean anything to the animals. But they will mean something to us.
[Via War is Boring]