An American hero deserves to be decorated for his service, some veterans say, even though he is not human.
The issue of awarding a Purple Heart to a dog has surfaced after the heroics of Conan, a Belgian Malinois who chased Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in last weekend’s raid that led to al-Baghdadi’s death. Conan was wounded when al-Baghdadi blew himself up with a suicide vest.
“Do I believe Conan should receive a Purple Heart for actions on target? Absolutely,” said Michael Bollinger, a former Army Ranger now studying computer science at Columbia University, according to the New York Post. “They’re out there with us every step of the way.”
Bollinger, 26, was awarded a Purple Heart in 2017 after suffering leg injuries caused by a grenade dropped on his unit by Islamic State fighters.
“I am still trying to recover from that,” he said. “Learning to run again has been a challenge.”
The official official policy on dogs and the medal awarded service members who are wounded in action was quoted to the Post by Department of Defense spokeswoman Jessica Maxwell.
“Military working dogs are not eligible for the Purple Heart,” she said.
But others think times have changed since the era when the military — which once did honor dogs — phased out those honors amid concern that honoring animals devalued Purple Hearts awarded to humans.
“I think that a lot of things have changed. Animals have come into human’s lives a lot differently than they did 20 years ago,” said James Knuppenburg, 33, who was shot in Kandahar City, Afghanistan, and later awarded the Purple Heart.
“They have become a companion, not just for the battlefield, but also to reverse PTSD and to help men and women with battlefield injuries that are not visible,” he told the Post.
“I would love to see Conan presented a Purple Heart with a live ceremony.
“I think that the K9 is the most valuable asset on the ground. I don’t think that you can replicate through technology or any sort of weaponry what the K9 is capable of … Without a doubt I think that any award — including the medal of honor — should be able to be received by a K9.”
Many on Twitter agreed.
— It’s_Carol (@JustCarol___) November 2, 2019
I think Conan deserves a Purple Heart for the heroic actions during the mission on al-Baghdadi’s compound. I hope we can find a way to make that happen. #HeroDog #PurpleHeart #fearless pic.twitter.com/Z2DF9VT2vs
— Rep Rick Crawford (@RepRickCrawford) November 2, 2019
Kit Sawyer, a dog handler in the Army’s 75th Ranger regiment who saw service in Afghanistan, told the Post his Dutch shepherd, Roy, “definitely saved lives.”
Roy ended up dying after being shot by a terrorist. At the end, the troops who served with him created a paper Purple Heart they put on Roy’s collar.
“Me and one of my old commanders said if I could, I would submit him for a Bronze Star for valor and definitely a Purple Heart,” Sawyer told the Post.
An image of what it might look like if a dog were honored appeared on social media last week, courtesy of The Daily Wire, and drew a response from President Donald Trump.
“Thank you Daily Wire. Very cute recreation, but the ‘live’ version of Conan will be leaving the Middle East for the White House sometime next week!” Trump tweeted.
Thank you Daily Wire. Very cute recreation, but the “live” version of Conan will be leaving the Middle East for the White House sometime next week! https://t.co/Z1UfhxsSpT
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 31, 2019
Conan is not the only dog to have entered the limelight in a high-profile attack. A military working dog named Cairo participated in the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden, The Washington Post reported.
Although the U.S. does not currently give dogs medals, other nations, such as Great Britain, still award medals to heroic canines.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.