A large crowd of individuals converged in Michigan to bid their heartfelt farewells to an ailing dog affected by cancer who bravely served alongside the US Marines during three missions in Afghanistan. Cena, a 10-year-old black labrador, received a ceremonial farewell on Wednesday, followed by his euthanasia and subsequent transport in a casket draped with an American flag. This commemorative event took place at the USS LST 393, a renowned museum ship located in Muskegon.
Cena, a brave and loyal canine, has been diagnosed with a terminal form of bone cancer. This courageous companion had a remarkable career as a bomb-sniffer in the Marine Corps, dedicating himself to serving his country until his well-deserved retirement in 2014. Now, it was time for Cena’s owner, Jeff Young, to organize a heartfelt celebration to honor their incredible bond. Jeff and Cena were inseparable during their military tour in Afghanistan in 2009 and 2010, and their connection deepened so much that Jeff decided to adopt Cena in 2014. Little did he know that this dedicated pup would become his own service dog, providing invaluable support to help him cope with the challenges of post-traumatic stress disorder. Together, Cena and Jeff embarked on a journey filled with love, companionship, and the determination to face any obstacle thrown their way.
DeYoung further expressed, “Throughout my entire journey into adulthood, Cena has been by my side – a loyal companion and friend.” He fondly recollected, “I was just 19 when I first met Cena, and he played a significant role in teaching me responsibility while I was serving overseas.” With a tinge of sadness, he shared, “Now, at 27, it is time to bid farewell to one of the most significant aspects of my life.”
DeYoung recounted how Cena’s presence was instrumental during challenging times. He revealed, “Cena and I have faced many dangers together, from crossing treacherous rivers to shielding each other from Taliban attacks.” Emotionally, he stated, “In freezing desert nights, Cena’s body warmth provided comfort, and he offered solace when I mourned the loss of seven comrades within just three weeks.”
To commemorate the occasion, DeYoung decided to embark on a final adventure with his furry companion in an open-air Jeep adorned with the phrase “Cancer Response Team.” Initially, he had just wanted to borrow a Jeep from a dealership for a day, but his idea quickly blossomed into a grand tribute from the entire community. DeYoung believes that his loyal companion, who has been battling cancer, truly deserves all the love and support that people are pouring out for him. He is grateful that his dog can witness and feel the overwhelming affection from everyone around him.
The ceremony was attended by a great number of individuals, including representatives from the US Marine Corps League, Michigan State Police, Muskegon County Sheriff’s Office, Muskegon City Police, Muskegon Fire Department, alongside officers from numerous other departments. One notable presence was Rex, a skilled canine officer. As the event unfolded, Cena, adorned in a beautifully decorated blue Marine vest, was honored with a final three-volley salute, accompanied by the somber melody of “Taps” playing softly in the background. Chaplain Wesley Spyke led the gathering in a heartfelt prayer, expressing the collective sorrow felt as yet another Marine departed this world.
A crowdfunding initiative has been created to gather funds for the memorial stone of Cena.
He expressed, “Any canine that has dedicated their service abroad deserves equal recognition for their contributions, if not more.”