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She’s a hero. There’s no other word for someone who, while serving her country in Afghanistan, takes four bullets to her body. Making sure her comrades aren’t injured– even if that someone is a military dog. And, that hero deserves a real welcome home to a loving family, especially after suffering injuries in battle that includes losing a leg. But, deciding where that home should be presents a bit of a problem in this situation.
The military knew that Layka, a four-year-old Belgian Malinois, deserved the American Humane Military Hero Award, and awarded it to her. Knowing where she should live—after aggressive training and clear trauma in the field– that was more of a challenge. Her beloved handler, Staff Sgt. Julian McDonald, fought to bring Layka into his own family and make HIS home HER home after she was officially retired from military service.
However, some people in the military’s administration worried she wouldn’t easily transition to civilian life. But McDonald wouldn’t give up, saying she saved his life, so he intended to save hers. In true soldier fashion, he fought for what he believed and won.
Layka is now part of the McDonald family, adapting and surviving, easily transitioning into the family. Like many soldiers after returning home, she still freezes up when she hears loud sounds, but beyond that, seems to be handling the change well.
Layka is now featured in HBO’s short film “War Dog: A Soldier’s Best Friend.” She’s featured in this video by National Geographic. It’s hard not to watch and not agree that she’s a real war hero, and a wonderful addition to the McDonald family.