John Douangdara was born on December 29, 1984, in Sioux City, Iowa. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy on February 15, 2002, and went on active duty to begin basic training on February 4, 2003. Douangdara completed basic training at NTC Great Lakes, Illinois, in April 2003, and then attended Master-at-Arms training at Hampton Roads, Virginia, from April to June 2003. His first assignment was as a Master-at-Arms at Naval Air Station Sigonella, Italy, from June 2003 to July 2006, and during this time he deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from August to November 2005. Petty Officer Douangdara next served as a Master-at-Arms at Submarine Base New London, Connecticut, from August 2006 to January 2008, followed by service as a Combat Assault Dog Handler with Naval Special Warfare Development Group at Dam Neck, Virginia, from January 2008 until he was killed in action with his Military Working Dog, Bart, aboard the CH-47 Chinook helicopter "Extortion 17" in Afghanistan on August 6, 2011. During this time he deployed to Afghanistan in 2008-2009, 2010, and 2011. John Douangdara was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
His 1st Bronze Star Medal w/Valor Citation reads:
For heroic achievement in connection with combat operations against the enemy as a Combat Assault Dog Handler for a Joint Task Force in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM from 26 October 2008 to 10 February 2009. During this period, Petty Officer Second Class Douangdara displayed great courage and leadership while conducting direct action missions. He was always at the front of the patrol, exposing himself and his dog to enemy threats. On the night of 25 November 2008, Petty Officer Second Class Douangdara played a key and heroic role while conducting the infiltration into an objective compound. His assault element came under heavy direct small arms fire from a determined enemy force. Continuing to maneuver under heavy enemy small arms fire, Petty Officer Second Class Douangdara and his combat assault dog positioned themselves to assist with entry into the enemy held compound. When the call came that there was a barricaded shooter situation unfolding internal to the compound buildings, he moved again under direct and heavy enemy fire to the threshold of the building. Petty Officer Second Class Douangdara subsequently engaged the enemy combatant with small arms fire, effectively ending the engagement. By his extraordinary guidance, zealous initiative, and total dedication to duty, Petty Officer Second Class Douangdara reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
The Combat Distinguishing Device is authorized.