Gunnery Sgt Chris Willingham & Lucca
Lucca was a German Shepherd/Belgian Malinois mix who served with the United States Marine Corps for 6 years. Trained to detect explosives, Lucca’s distinguished record includes leading more than 400 patrols in Afghanistan and Iraq during three combat tours. She’s credited with at least 40 confirmed finds of insurgents, explosives and ammunition — and for having no human casualties during her patrols.
In 2012, while on patrol in Afghanistan, she was injured by an IED blast that led to the amputation of her left leg. After recovering at MCB Camp Pendleton, Lucca officially retired in 2012 and was adopted by her original handler, Gunnery Sergeant Chris Willingham.
On 5 April 2016, the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA), a veterinary charity in the United Kingdom, awarded Lucca the PDSA Dickin Medal. Known as the “Victoria Cross for Animals,” Lucca was the 67th recipient and first US Marine Corps dog to receive the honor.
Lucca died peacefully on January 20, 2018 surrounded by Chris Willingham and his loving family, and Cpl Juan Rodriguez, the handler who was with Lucca when she was injured.
To GnySgt Willingham, she will always be his "Lucca Bear."
MCB Camp Pendleton has a fantastic Military Working Dog program. It is fitting that Lucca's monument be placed on base to honor all of those military working dogs who have served so valiantly and sacrificed so much.
Lucca also has a rich history at Camp Pendleton. She received training there before being deployed, and returned after her injury where she made her recovery on base. Jocelyn Russell, the artist of the beautiful monument to SSgt Reckless is once again the artist chosen to do this monument. (Please see Jocelyn’s other magnificent work at www.wildlifebronzes.com.) Her sculpture depicts Lucca standing proudly in her full glory, wearing her harness, ready for work. (Please note: the mock-up picture does not have the harness at this time.) The sides of the pedestal will be black granite and have engraved pictures of Lucca pre and post injury, and tell her story.
Location: The entrance to the Pacific Views Event Center at Camp Pendleton offers the perfect location to place this monument. With its proximity to the Oceanside gate and the Memorial Gardens, this location will be the easiest for the community to come and enjoy and will be a wonderful addition for the Starbucks patrons to enjoy and learn about a great hero. The monument will also be across from SSgt Reckless and will enhance the other memorials around the building.
Memorial Statue Design & Materials: Lucca will be made of bronze. She will be slightly larger than life, the size of a very large German shepherd. The pedestal will have a short concrete base with a black granite overlay, and the sides of the pedestal will be engraved black granite with a picture of Lucca in service and a description of her heroics on one side, and on the other, a picture and description of her post-injury, three-legged wearing the PDSA Dickin Medal.
Lucca K458 is the first of many monuments that will also be part of the new International War Animals Museum.