Why Hero Military Dog Conan Probably Won’t Receive a Purple Heart

Conan, hero military dog

Ever since he helped take down ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Bagdadi in October, hero dog Conan has received plenty of well-deserved accolades.

Conan is a Belgian Malinois who has served over 50 missions with the U.S. military’s Delta Force. He was injured during the Oct. 27 raid in Syria when he stepped on live electrical wires while chasing al-Bagdadi into a tunnel. Fortunately, the hero dog recovered from his wounds.

In a Photoshopped tweet three days after the raid, Donald Trump is seen putting ribbon with a paw-print medal around Conan’s neck.

AMERICAN HERO! pic.twitter.com/XCCa2sGfsZ

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 30, 2019

There was some confusion over whether Conan was male or female, but apparently he’s a male.

?UPDATE: Two defense officials have now contacted us to say Conan is *for sure they say* a BOY. One official said they triple checked.

I guess the important thing here is that Conan, boy or girl, is a good dog who did excellent work with the US military.

The end. https://t.co/bSQJifnMxx

— Elizabeth McLaughlin (@Elizabeth_McLau) November 26, 2019

Fun fact: Conan wasn’t named after Conan the Barbarian, but Conan O’Brien the Comedian.

That dog is clearly the better “Conan” — I wish her a speedy recovery! https://t.co/7BVIaybve6

— Conan O’Brien (@ConanOBrien) October 29, 2019

During Conan’s visit to the White House last week, Trump called him a “tough cookie” at a news conference. “The dog is incredible,” Trump said. “We spent some good time with it. So brilliant, so smart.” Trump presented Conan with a special medal designed by U.S. Special Operations — but not a Purple Heart.

Despite Conan’s heroism, it is unlikely that he will receive a Purple Heart, the U.S. military’s highest honor. This award is given to members of the military who “are wounded by an instrument of war in the hands of the enemy and posthumously to the next of kin in the name of those who are killed in action or die of wounds received in action,” according to the Military Order of the Purple Heart website.

Since World War II, the U.S. military has only awarded the Purple Heart to two-legged heroes.

“The use of military decorations is limited to human personnel who distinguish themselves in service to the nation,” Defense Department spokeswoman Eileen Lainez said in 2010, according to the American Kennel Club (AKC).

Many veterans think dogs should also be awarded this honor for their service.

“Do I believe Conan should receive a Purple Heart for actions on target?” former Army Ranger and Purple Heart recipient Michael Bollinger, a former Army Ranger, told the New York Post. “Absolutely. They’re out there with us every step of the way.”

For over a decade, Ron Aiello, founder of the United States War Dog Association, has been urging the Department of Defense to establish an official medal for military dogs who distinguish themselves in service to the U.S.

“They say they can’t do that,” he told the AKC. “We utilize these dogs and they are recognized as a large asset to our military. But we can’t honor them.”

The last military dog to officially be honored with a Purple Heart was Chips, the most decorated dog of World War II.

“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,” TIME reported in February 1944.

All the press Chips was getting caught the attention of the commander of the Order of the Purple Heart, according to Military.com. The commander complained to President Roosevelt and the War Department that giving the Purple Heart to a dog demeaned all the men who had received one.

Chips was allowed to keep his medals, but the Army’s adjutant general, Major General James A. Ulio, ruled that no other dogs would receive the Purple Heart, TIME reported.

The most decorated dog in U.S. military history was Purple Heart recipient “Sergeant” Stubby, who saved hundreds of lives during World War I by sniffing out mustard gas and barking to alert the troops when he heard artillery fire.

More recently, a Belgian Malinois named Cairo helped his fellow Navy SEALs take down Osama bin Laden in a 2011 raid. Cairo did not receive a Purple Heart for this heroic feat, and that’s a shame.

Photo: Official White House photo by Shealah Craighead

Laura Goldman

I am a freelance writer and lifelong dog lover. For five years, I was a staff writer for i Love Dogs. When that site shut down, I started this blog...because I STILL Love Dogs!