Emotional Farewell Ceremony Held for Marine Dog
Photo: Joel Bissell / Muskegon Chronicle via AP

A Marine dog who had cancer and who served in Afghanistan 3 times had hundreds turn out for his tear-filled goodbye ceremony in Michigan.

Cena, a 10-year old black lab, was diagnosed with terminal bone cancer. Last Wednesday, hundreds of people gathered for a hero’s goodbye before Cena was scheduled to be euthanized at the USS LST 393, a museum ship in Muskegon. He was carried away in a flag-draped coffin.

Cena was a bomb-sniffing dog in the U.S. Marines until he retired in 2014. His owner, Lace Cpl. Jeff DeYoung, organized the celebration.

The two were paired in 2009 and again in 2010 to do a combat tour in Afghanistan. DeYoung adopted Cena in 2014. It was then that Cena took on another heroic role by becoming DeYoung’s service dog, to help the Marine combat his PTSD.

DeYoung expressed sadness at having to say goodbye to “one of the biggest pieces” of his life, saying that the dog has been with him his entire adult life. Cena has accompanied DeYoung since he was 19; he is now 27.

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DeYoung recounted time time he and the dog spent together; how he has carried Cena across rivers, had thrown Cena’s body over him while enduring heavy fire from the Taliban, and recalled how Cena had kept his body warm in the desert during the cold nights. Cena also carried his companion emotionally when DeYound lost seven friends in just three short weeks.

On Cena’s last day, DeYoung took the dog out on a final ride in his Jeep with the top down; the vehicle was decorated and named “Cancer Response Team.”
DeYoung told the story of this Jeep; it began when he approached a dealership asking to borrow a Jeep for the occasion. That turned into a small community tribute developing – and that in turn developed into a community parade to celebrate the life and legacy of Cena.

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DeYoung expressed much gratitude for all of the support and love shown to Cena on his final day. He said he knows Cena saw and felt this love from the community.

Attendance of the ceremony also included the U.S. Marine Corps League, Muskegon County Sheriff's Office, Michigan State Police, Muskegon City Police, Muskegon Fire Department and officers from several other departments. It even included a canine officer named Rex.

Attendees gave Cena their final three-volley salute to the tune of “Taps,” which played in the background. Cena wore a decorated blue Marine vest.

A GoFundMe page was created in order to raise funds to pay for a headstone for Cena. DeYoung said that any dog who serves overseas deserves exactly what he gave Cena, and more.

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Cody has worked and volunteered with rescue animals her entire life. She worked as a veterinary assistant and technician in shelters, rescues, boarding facilities, doggy daycares and animal hospitals in New York and Chicago throughout her teens and twenties, and now resides as a pet foster mom in Upstate New York.