Veterans are unfazed by a Department of Defense guideline that says only humans are eligible for the Purple Heart medal awarded to military service members injured in combat.
According to The New York Post, multiple veterans and past medal recipients believe President Donald Trump should award Conan with the prestigious recognition after the Belgian Malinois was injured while chasing down the former head of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who blew himself up with a suicide vest during the raid.
Although the courageous canine is expected to visit the White House next week, Department of Defense spokeswoman Jessica Maxwell says "military working dogs are not eligible for the Purple Heart." However, The Post reports that several Purple Heart recipients and combat vets who have worked closely with K9 troops disagree with the decision.
Canines save American lives
Michael Bollinger, a former Army Ranger, said "Do I believe Conan should receive a Purple Heart for actions on target? Absolutely."
Bollinger, who received a Purple Heart in 2007 and now studies computer science at Columbia University, added that military dogs like Conan are "out there with us every step of the way."
Meanwhile, Kit Sawyer, 30, who served as a sergeant and dog handler in the Army, noted the important role service dogs have played in our military engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan where the animals were tasked with sniffing roadside bombs. "One explosive can take out six to eight guys." Sawyer added his Dutch Shepard Roy successfully identified several improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Afghanistan.
Conan would not be the first medal recipient
The Post notes Conan would not be the first canine to be awarded with a Purple Heart medal:
The issue of military dogs receiving Purple Hearts has roiled the armed forces for more than a half-century, when debate first rose in 1943 over World War II hero Chips, a Shepherd-Collie-Husky, who was injured taking out a Nazi gun nest in Sicily. The action was considered so valorous that Chips received not just a Purple Heart but a Silver Star and the Distinguished Service Cross.
On February 28, 1944, Time magazine noted that the decision to honor Chips was controversial at the time.
For 'singlehandedly' wiping out a machine-gun nest in Italy, a dog named Chips was awarded the D.S.C., the Silver Star and the Purple Heart. Last week this impressive sweep of medals appeared likely to stand in the records for a long time, maybe forever. The Army's Adjutant General, Major General James A. Ulio, ruled, following protests, that Chips could keep his medals but no more medals would be allowed to dogs.
In recent years, the role of service dogs in combat missions has been a topic in popular culture. Most notably, in 2017, actress Kate Mara starred in
Megan Leavey, a critically-acclaimed biopic about a young Marine corporal's relationship with Rex, a canine that completed over 100 missions in Iraq.
A date for Conan's White House visit has not been set yet, but she is expected to grace the nation's capital within the next several days.
Editor's note: This article originally incorrectly identified Conan as male. She is female. We regret the error.