When the time came for a U.S. Marine veteran’s dog to cross the rainbow bridge, hundreds of people from their hometown gathered to give him a hero’s farewell.
Cena was a four-legged Marine vet who served three tours in Afghanistan as an explosive-sniffing dog.
Lance Cpl., Lance’s first handler and owner of the 10-year-old black Labrador, was diagnosed with terminal bone tumors. Jeffrey DeYoung wanted him to go off in the best way possible.
Cena and DeYoung were together for six months during a stint in Afghanistan in 2009 and 2010. After Cena’s hip injury, DeYoung adopted DeYoung’s military dog in 2014. They’ve lived together since then in Muskegon, Michigan.
“My whole adult life I’ve had Cena. Cena saved my life when I was overseas at the age of 19 learning how to be responsible. And now I’m 27 and I’m having to say goodbye to one of the biggest pieces of my life,” DeYoung said in an interview with NBC’s Nightly News.
“This dog saved my life. I trust him more than I trust most human beings.”
Cena was carried across rivers by the soldier, and the dog kept him warm on cold nights in desert. DeYoung threw his body over Cena’s while the Taliban heavily fired at them.
Cena was there for DeYoung when he lost seven of his closest friends in three weeks and developed post-traumatic stress disorder.
When DeYoung sent a call out for Cena to take a last ride in a topless Jeep Wrangler, hundreds of people in their community showed up to celebrate the dog’s life. The two were accompanied by police officers on a ride.
DeYoung wore a blue dress uniform to the USS LST393 Museum event. Cena wore a homemade uniform provided by a local company in their hometown.
The dog was laid in a blue wagon with cloth near a Jeep Liberty. All who wanted to pet him were allowed to.
He was later pulled over to a Wrangler emblazoned with the words “Cancer Response Team.” A family photo was taken, and they said their tearful goodbyes to the Marine.
Other well-wishers who attended the ceremony included the Michigan State Police, Muskegon City Police, Muskegon County Sheriff’s Office, Muskegon Fire Department, the U.S. Marine Corps League, and officers from several other departments. Rex, a canine officer, was also present.
“Lord, it is with heavy hearts that we are sending another Marine to you today,” Chaplain Wesley Spyke of Muskegon County Veteran Affairs said in prayer during the ceremony.
DeYoung carefully lifted Cena from his wagon and placed him in the backseat on the Wrangler. The back window of the Wrangler’s wagon was decorated with an American flag and Cena sat next his best friend, the Marine veteran.
After a brief ride, the convoy returned home to the museum. DeYoung and Cena boarded the ship, and “Taps” was played in his honor. Cena was taken to hospital at 6:15 p.m. by a veterinarian and carried off in a flag-draped casket.
It’s the small things that DeYoung would miss most about Cena.
“The goofy look he gets on his face when you open a potato chip bag. Whenever I grab his vest off the peg and he gets up and he says, ‘Where we going today?’ “Just him, it’s gonna be tough,” he said.
The Marine veteran said the hero’s farewell was exactly what Cena deserved.
“He can see it and he can feel it … these dogs, they go out every day and they bring people back every day,” he said. “He’s not just a dog, he’s family and he’s a Marine just the same.”
Cena has been with us for four years and we still love him for his loyalty. We are comforted to know that Cena’s family and community made him feel loved during his final hours.
Watch the video below to witness Cena’s emotional send off.
Did you enjoy our positive, feel-good story? You can support our site simply by SUBSCRIBING to our blog and sharing our stories and thoughts with your friends.