After serving three tours in Afghanistan by Lance Cpl. Jeff DeYoung’s side, Cena the military service dog got the hero’s send-off he so richly deserved after being diagnosed with terminal bone cancer.
According to The Associated Press, on July 27, Cena received an emotional farewell in Muskegon, Michigan before being euthanized at the USS LST 393, a museum ship in Muskegon.
The 10-year-old black Labrador, who served as a bomb-sniffing dog for the Marines and was eventually adopted by DeYoung as a service animal, was carried to his final resting place in an American flag-draped coffin, as “Taps” played and DeYoung tearfully said one last goodbye.
Just two days before the service, DeYoung penned an emotional tribute to Cena on Facebook which read, “Words cannot convey what I’m feeling and thinking. I want to run away and not face what I must do. But he needs me to be strong and set him free. He has blessed my life with love and admiration, happiness and strength. Because of him I got to have a family. Because of him I was able to live.”
“Goodnight my friend, goodbye my brother,” DeYoung continued, “May you rest your head tonight knowing how loved you are and how dearly you will be missed.”
It wasn’t the first time that DeYoung had heartfelt words for his best friend. Earlier this year, DeYoung opened up to BBC News for a documentary series, in which he recalled how much Cena helped him with his PTSD after returning home from battle.
DeYoung also said that his reunion with Cena after nearly four years apart was, aside from his wedding day and the birth of his children, the best day of his life.
Cena and DeYoung’s story touched a nerve with many, and hundreds attended the service to pay their respects to Cena, including fellow military personnel.
DeYoung, who described his Cena as “one of the biggest pieces of my life,” said that all dogs who serve overseas deserve farewells just like Cena’s.
“Lance Cpl. DeYoung’s devotion to Cena speaks volumes about the relationships that Marines develop with their working dogs, particularly when serving in harm’s way while deployed,” Major Brian Block of the United States Marine Corps says. “This was obviously a bond that couldn’t be broken and truly an expression of our core ethos-semper fidelis, always faithful.”
Since the service, a GoFundMe page was set up by Jacobie Baumann, a veteran and friend of DeYoung, to provide Cena with a headstone.
In less than two weeks, the fundraiser has exceeded its goal of $40,000, with thousands of contributors sending money and well-wishers, including one user who wrote, “Cena and Jeff—thank you both for your service to our nation. Cena’s impact is far-reaching as was evident by the people who showed up to bid him farewell and by the continued support. Stay strong and keep up the good work that you and Cena started.”
Image via GoFundMe
Aly Semigran is a lifestyle writer for the world, and roommate of Ruby, the cutest dog in the world.