Hundreds of people came together in Michigan on Wednesday, July 26, to say a final goodbye to Cena, a 10-year-old black lab that served three tours in Afghanistan.
Cena was stricken with terminal bone cancer. The dog received a hero’s farewell before being euthanized on a museum ship in Muskegon and carried off in a flag-draped coffin.
The dog served as a bomb sniffer for the Marines until retiring in 2014, according to Associated Press. Afterward he was reunited with one of his handlers, Lance Cpl. Jeff DeYoung, who organized the funeral. DeYoung was paired with Cena in Afghanistan from 2009 to 2010.
When Cena was retired in 2014, DeYoung adopted the dog, making him a service animal. Cena helped him deal with post-traumatic stress disorder.
“My whole adult life I’ve had Cena,” DeYoung said. “When I was 19 overseas learning how to be responsible, I had Cena. And now I’m 27 and I’m having to say goodbye to one of the biggest pieces of my life.”
In Afghanistan, DeYoung carried Cena across rivers and threw his body on top of the dog to cover it from Taliban gunfire. Cena helped DeYoung stay warm on cold desert nights and comforted him when he lost seven friends in three weeks.
For the final farewell, DeYoung took Cena on a ride in a topless Jeep decorated with a sign reading “Cancer Response Team.”
“It started off with my basically wanting to go to a dealership and wanting to borrow a Jeep for a day,” said DeYoung, and have “a community tribute or a community parade for him and he’s truly deserved it all,” DeYoung said.
“The support, all the love people are giving him, he can see it and he can feel it.”
Men and women from several military and police departments attended the ceremony, including the U.S. Marine Corps League, the Michigan State Police, the Muskegon County Sheriff’s Office, the Muskegon City Police, and the Muskegon Fire Department.
Cena was dressed in a decorated Marine vest. With “Taps” playing in the background, three volleys were fired to salute the dutiful canine one last time.
“Lord, it is with heavy hearts that we are sending another Marine to you today,” Wesley Spyke, the chaplain, said as he addressed the crowd.
A GoFundMe page was started to help fund a headstone for Cena.
“Any dog that served overseas deserves exactly what I’ve done for Cena, if not more,” DeYoung said.