The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Ohio is opening a temporary display on wounded military working dogs featuring wooden dog sculptures, designed to highlight the service, commitment and honor of injured military working dogs.
Starting on Nov. 8, the museum will feature sculptures created by Jim Mellick of various military working dogs. Among them are Lucca and Cooper, who both were stationed in Iraq together in 2007 and often played together with a deflated football.
Cooper and his handler, Army Cpl. Kory Wiens, paid the ultimate sacrifice on July 6, 2007, following an IED blast. The yellow lab’s sculpture includes a dove on his back to represent his “angel wings,” according to the museum.
Lucca, who served with the Marine Corps for six years, participated in more than 400 missions detecting explosives. She was injured in an IED blast in 2012 during a tour in Afghanistan, causing her to lose her front left leg.
"The explosion was huge and I immediately feared the worst for Lucca,” her handler Cpl. Juan Rodriguez said about the blast, according to the BBC.
"I stayed with her constantly throughout her operation and her recovery,” Rodriguez said. “She had saved my life on so many occasions — I had to make sure that I was there for her when she needed me."
For her service and “conspicuous gallantry,” she was awarded the Dickin Medal from the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals charity. The organization, based in the United Kingdom, awarded Lucca the medal at Wellington Barracks in London in 2016.
Mellick started crafting the sculptures in 2014. The following year, the exhibit started touring and has visited museums including the National Museum of the Marine Corps near Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia.
The exhibit will remain open from Nov. 8 to Jan. 31, 2020.