Extra dose of valor for your Friday

| February 3, 2023

Bass with his Dickin Medal

I’ve previously talked about some recipients of the Dickin Medal, awarded by the British animal humane organization People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA). It is the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross, the United Kingdom’s (and Commonwealth’s) highest honor, awarded only for battlefield gallantry.

A US Marine Corps dog is the latest recipient of the Dickin Medal for his heroic action in Iraq. From the Daily Mail;

A heroic army dog who saved countless lives by sniffing out five IED bombs during a raid against the Taliban has been awarded the animal version of the Victoria Cross.

Bass, a Belgian Shepherd who served in the US Marine Corps, has become the 75th animal to win the PDSA’s Dickin Medal.

The award was launched by the UK charity in 1943 after its founder, Maria Dickin, realised the amount of lives animals – mostly dogs and carrier pigeons – saved in war.

Bass spent six years in the US Marine Special Operation Command and conducted more than 350 explosive sweeps in 46 missions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia.

Now aged 10 – about 53 in human years – Bass has retired and lives with his former handler, Staff Sergeant Alex Schnell, in San Antonio, Texas.

Bass was nominated for the award by former US Marine Corps dog handler Chris Willingham.

Jan McLoughlin, the director general of the PDSA, praised Bass for his devotion to duty.

She said: ‘Bass displayed conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in aiding the success of his team’s mission that evening in 2019; his actions undoubtedly prevented additional loss of life.

‘Bass’ life-saving actions on that night, make him a truly deserving recipient of the PDSA Dickin Medal.

‘Whether they are working dogs like Bass, or pets in our homes, animals have a truly unique role in our lives.

‘Every day in our Pet Hospitals, PDSA’s vets and vet nurses see and protect the incredible bond between pets and their owners, which is why PDSA continues our founder Maria Dickin’s mission – to ensure no pet suffers because of their owners financial circumstances and to honour the incredible role they play in our society.

‘Bass is a wonderful example of how vital animals are. His exceptional abilities and determination were apparent to all who served with him, and he was a clearly respected member of the team. I am proud to present him with the PDSA Dickin Medal.’

Mr Schnell, said: ‘It is truly one of my greatest honours to see Bass awarded the PDSA Dickin Medal.

‘Bass is an incredible dog and I hope his story helps to demonstrate just how important animals are to our armed forces, and the key, sometimes life-saving, roles that they play.

‘We are all incredibly proud that PDSA has recognised Bass in this way.’

Mr Willingham, who nominated Bass, said: ‘Bass and Alex made an incredible team and were amongst the top five per cent of Marines I had the honour of serving with.

‘Bass’ service and skill demonstrates the finest traditions of K-9 and I am thrilled to see his achievements recognised with the PDSA Dickin Medal.’

During a night-time raid to capture a Taliban bomb-maker in Helmand Province in May 2019, enemy soldiers opened fire and detonated an IED.

In order to avoid a frontal assault against the barricaded enemy position, the team began clearance of a nearby building to allow them to gain a safer vantage point

Bass took the lead in the clearance and immediately identified an IED located adjacent to the doorway of the building.

After finding another entry to the building, Bass continued to sweep the structure and identified four additional IEDs.

The PDSA Dickin Medal is a large, bronze medallion bearing the words ‘For Gallantry’ and ‘We Also Serve’ all within a laurel wreath.

The Medal has been awarded 75 times to 38 dogs, 32 pigeons, four horses and one cat.

In other valor-related news, two retired NASA astronauts have received NASA’s highest award, the Congressional Space Medal of Honor. The medal was first awarded to Neil Armstrong by President Carter. Subsequent awards were made to other space pioneers with names any child of the last 60 years will recognize (Glenn, Shepard, and Lovell among others). George W Bush awarded it to the crew of STS-107 (aboard the Shuttle Columbia when it was destroyed on re-entry) and then to the crew of STS-51-L (aboard the Shuttle Challenger when it exploded on launch). Similarly, the astronauts who died in the Apollo 1 fire during training have also received the medal (Grissom was in the inaugural group chosen by Carter and White and Chaffee were awarded theirs by Clinton).

Since most of the awards have been posthumous for those who died in the process of space exploration, I’m glad to see a return to awards for those taking pioneering steps in space.

Vice President Kamala Harris applauds after presenting the Congressional Space Medal of Honor to former NASA astronauts Robert Behnken, left, and Douglas Hurley on Jan. 31, 2023. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

From Military Times;

Two former NASA astronauts and military test pilots were awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor yesterday during an event at the White House.

Robert Behnken, a retired Air Force colonel, and Douglas Hurley, a retired Marine colonel, were presented the awards by Vice President Kamala Harris.

“Bob and Doug, together, have written the first page of a new chapter in the history of American space flight,” Harris, who chairs the National Space Council, said during the ceremony.

The decorations were awarded “for bravery in NASA’s SpaceX Demonstration Mission-2 (Demo-2) to the International Space Station in 2020,” according to a NASA news release.

The pair piloted the first manned mission to the space station in nearly a decade when they launched a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft to the space station on May 30, 2020. NASA’s Commercial Crew Program has sent five manned missions to the space station, the most recent of which launched last October.

Both former military pilots, Hurley, 56, and Behnken, 52, were selected by NASA in 2000 and announced as members of the commercial crew program in 2015. The two have each participated in three space flights, and during their extensive military careers have each flown more than 25 different types of aircraft, according to their NASA bios.

The Congressional Space Medal of Honor, created by Congress in 1969, is given “to any astronaut who in the performance of his [or her] duties has distinguished himself [or herself] by exceptionalIy meritorious efforts and contributions to the welfare of the [n]ation and of mankind,” according to NASA. It has now been awarded to 30 people, including those who died in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster 20 years ago today.

The last individual to receive the prestigious honor was retired Navy Capt. Robert Crippen, who earned the medal in 2006 for piloting the first space shuttle mission.

NASA’s next crewed space flight, which will include retired Navy Capt. Stephen Bowen, is planned for Feb. 26 at the earliest, the agency said in a release.

Category: Marines, NASA, UK and Commonwealth Awards, Valor

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Great stories! Thanks.

Green Thumb


Needed some good news with all of the negative news going on in the world.

Appreciate it.


3 Woofs! to Bass and 3 cheers to Colonels Behnken and Hurley.


Whose a good boy? I hope he enjoys his well earned retirement chasing ducks and asserting dominance over the young pups.


To me, every dog is a Hero…more so when they do Hero stuff.

We did fuel to payload calculations on the Sergeant and Lance Missiles. Guess that NASA does the same for their rockets. How much do brass balls weigh?