More medals coming for Gretna military working dog

Paco will be honored in Washington D.C. Wednesday afternoon.
A military dog from Gretna is set to be honored in the nation's capitol Wednesday.
Published: Mar. 6, 2023 at 10:22 PM CST
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GRETNA, Neb. (WOWT) - Like any other wily old veteran, Paco makes the most out of his retirement.

Retired Sgt. First Class Paco and his combat dog handler, SSgt. Brad Mrsny, served side-by-side from 2009-2017 -- including the day in Afghanistan they took the heat that earned them a Purple Heart.

“Every single morning you would take mortar rounds, that was your wake-up call,” Mrsny said. “One morning, out doing our normal patrol and got a little too close, he took some shrapnel in the side of [his] torso, four or five-inch piece.”

A few weeks later, they were back at it. Paco had 33 positive IED finds, saving hundreds of lives in Afghanistan.

But when they first trained together in Texas, his wife Brittany wasn’t convinced.

“She said she got up to Paco’s really think this dog is gonna save your life? And I said this is the best dog that we have,” Brad said.

In 2016, 6 News was there when the two reunited after their service. Now 14, Paco is always on the ready with the girls, 2-year-old Braelynn and 6-year-old Blakely.

He isn’t completely retired, though. He now goes to work with Brittany, a counselor, and is also a comfort dog for some groups.

“That dog is the only reason I’m standing here today,” Mrsny said. “He’s the only reason I have my family. If it wasn’t for that dog and his nose, us working together, I wouldn’t be here.”

Paco has received pretty much every honor a military dog can get, and will receive two more in Washington, D.C. this week. The Medal of Bravery and the Distinguished Service Medal -- both from Animals in War & Peace.

“This isn’t just a dog,” Mrsny said. “He’s a soldier.”

This is why Brad and others are working to secure burial rights for the Four-Legged Fighters in a veteran national cemetery -- an honor he believes Paco has earned.

“You fight side by side with the person next to you, and you fight side by side with the dog next to you, and more likely the dog is going to save your life than the person next to you’s going to save your life,” Mrsny said. “They’re going to find that explosive device, that no one can see or smell.”

Loud noises can trigger Paco’s anxiety -- but when called to duty by the kids, he hasn’t lost his skills.

Wednesday’s ceremony will be live-streamed from Capitol Hill. Rep. Don Bacon is expected to present Paco with his medals.

Gizmo’s Gift is another non-profit that supports dogs like Paco.