In a ceremony on Capitol Hill Wednesday, March 9, the military working dog who served in the SEAL Team 6 raid that took down Usama Bin Laden and a secret service dog who stopped a White House intruder in 2014 were honored alongside four other American working dogs who received medals recognizing their bravery and exemplary service in the line of duty.
Cairo, a Belgian Malinois who was shot twice on a SEAL Team 6 mission in 2009 and recovered and returned to duty to help take down the world’s most notorious terrorist, was one of three military working dogs recognized with the Animals in War and Peace Medal of Bravery.
Hurricane, a Belgian Malinois and retired Secret Service canine who suffered significant injuries while stopping a man who jumped the fence around the White House and ran toward the president’s quarters in 2014, was one of three service dogs who received — for the first time ever — the Animals in War and Peace Distinguished Service Medal.
Accompanied by his owner and former handler, retired Secret Service agent Marshall Mirarchi, Hurricane sat perfectly still as the medal was placed around his black-furred neck. Mirarchi told Coffee or Die Magazine that Hurricane has had all four incisors replaced with titanium and still suffers from hip problems related to his struggle with the White House intruder, who slammed and kicked Hurricane as the dog fought to subdue the man.
“These faithful companions provide us with a profound testimony of what loyalty and compassion should look like,” Rear Adm. Margaret Kibben, chaplain of the United States House of Representatives, said during the ceremony’s invocation. “They serve as an example, not just of duty but of devotion, not just of obligation but gallantry, not just service but selflessness.”
Animals in War and Peace is a nonprofit organization focused on honoring service animals and their handlers, and the organization’s Medal of Bravery is awarded for “gallantry and acts of valor … performed in the presence of great danger, or at great risk.” The nonprofit’s Distinguished Service Medal is awarded for “extraordinary heroism not justifying the Medal of Bravery” but “clearly above that normally expected” in the line of duty.
Nemo, an Air Force German shepherd, was posthumously awarded the Medal of Bravery for helping his unit fight its way out of an enemy ambush in Vietnam in 1966. When four enemy soldiers initiated an ambush, Nemo’s handler, Airman Robert Throneburg, immediately suffered two gunshots to the face and collapsed. Despite being shot twice in the face himself, the German Shepard repeatedly charged the enemy, helping to repel the attack and force the enemy to flee. When help arrived, Nemo was found lying across his handler, protecting him. Both Nemo and Throneburg survived.
A German Shepherd named Ziggy also received the Medal of Bravery for his service with Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command. Ziggy completed five combat deployments with MARSOC, serving in more than 50 heliborne direct-action raids and locating more than 330 improvised explosive devices before they could harm Americans.
Smoky, a Yorkshire terrier who served with the 5th Army Air Force in World War II, was honored posthumously with the Animals in War and Peace Distinguished Service Medal. The nonprofit recognized Smoky for his multiple contributions to Allied efforts, including stringing 70 feet of communication wire through a tunnel that proved critical to the liberation of the Philippines.
The third recipient of the Distinguished Service Medal, Feco, is an active working dog with the Coast Guard’s Maritime Safety and Security Team. Credited with more than 2,335 hours of patrols, Feco continues to serve in the San Francisco Bay area.
“I think starting to recognize these canine heroes is so important,” retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Thomas Kane told Coffee or Die after the ceremony. “The Brits have been doing this for over 70 years, so it’s time we recognize their contributions and the bond between these dogs and their handlers.”
Animals in War and Peace created its Medal of Bravery as the American equivalent of the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals’ Dickin Medal, which is “the highest award any animal can receive whilst serving in military conflict,” according to the PDSA’s website.
“Instituted in 1943 by PDSA’s founder Maria Dickin CBE, it acknowledges outstanding acts of bravery or devotion to duty displayed by animals serving with the Armed Forces or Civil Defence units in any theatre of war throughout the world,” the PDSA website states.