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On January 24, Retired Air Force Tech Sergeant, Jason Spangenberg carried his former partner, Rico, into the veterinary clinic at Dover Air Force Base for the last time.
As they passed, members of the 436th Security Forces Squadron lined their path in a final salute to the canine hero. Rico served his country as an explosives detection dog for eight years before retiring as Spangenberg’s family pet.
Over the last several months, Rico had been struggling with a painful condition known as degenerative myelopathy, a progressive disease of the spinal cord that makes it increasingly difficult to walk.
The heartbreaking moment was accompanied by an official “last call” radio alert heard all across the base:
“To all cars, posts and patrols … to all cars, posts and patrols … stand by on all radio transmissions … standby on all radio transmissions. Standby for last call: BDOC to MWD Rico … BDOC to MWD Rico … BDOC to MWD Rico … End of watch for MWD Rico on January 24th, 2018. Rest in peace, MWD Rico.”
Before retiring in 2016, Rico earned the bronze star for assisting Spangenberg in detecting more than 100 pounds of explosive material on more than 100 combat missions in Afghanistan. Together, they also trained more than 300 Afghan police officers on counter improvised explosive device tactics.
Rico and Spangenberg were even recognized locally with a “War Dog Memorial” featuring their likeness in downtown Dover. It reads:
“They protected and watched over us at home and on the field of battle. We are forever grateful for their undying loyalty, devotion and faithful service. They are not forgotten.”
A brick at the base of the memorial is inscribed:
“Special thanks to Staff Sergeant Jason Spangenberg, War Dog ‘Rico.’”
For more on Rico’s incredible service, check out this lovely tribute on the Dover Air Force Base webpage.