Marine Corporal Megan Leavey, whose efforts to adopt her canine military partner last year drew nationwide support, received Rockland County’s inaugural Freedom Award on Tuesday. County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef and Veterans Services Agency Director Jerry Donnellan presented her with the award in recognition of her service to the country. Leavey’s military honors include a Purple Heart Medal, National Defense Ribbon, and Global War on Terrorism Ribbon among many others.
Leavey expressed appreciation for the award but noted it was her first public appearance without Sergeant Rex, her military working dog.
“I would like to just recognize him,” said Leavey. “And because of him I may not be standing here today receiving this award if it wasn’t for him,”
Rex, a bomb sniffing dog, died in December 2012. They served two tours of duty in Iraq together and were injured by an Improved Explosive Device on Sept. 4, 2006 while leading a foot patrol. They continued the mission then Leavey and Rex were airlifted to a Baghdad hospital and transferred several months later to Camp Pendleton, CA for physical therapy.
Leavey recuperated and completed her last year of duty however Rex was assigned to limited duty at Camp Pendleton. Leavey, who had tried to adopt Rex over the years, succeeded in April 2012 and brought him to live with her in Valley Cottage.
“We’re very proud, it’s a special day in Rockland County,” said Vanderhoef.
Donellan noted that 15 percent of the active forces are women in line positions and Leavey led a foot patrol, a dangerous assignment. He shared the quote engraved on the award, “For those who fought for it, freedom has a flavor the protected will never know.” The quote originated with Marine Lance Corporal Edwin “Tim” Craft in Viet Nam in 1968.
Leavey, 29, graduated from Nyack High School and attended SUNY Cortland and St. Thomas Aquinas College before joining the Marine Corps in 2003. She completed K9 training school as the top student and was teamed with Rex, a German Shepherd. She works with her explosive detection dog, Patriot, in New York City and is studying for her cosmetology license at Capri Cosmetology Learning Center in Nanuet. Her parents, Ellyn Leavey of Pearl River and Bill Leavey of Valley Cottage joined her for the presentation.