Hero Marine working dog Cena laid to rest at the 'Arlington of dogs'

A group of six German shepherds gave a final salute August 28 in honor of a fellow canine who served three tours of duty as a military working dog for the US Marine Corps and died on July 27 at age 10 after a weeks’ long battle with bone cancer.

The German shepherds, which are part of the K-9 Salute Team, were trained to kneel and howl on command in honor of Cena, a black lab who was euthanized in July and whose remains were interred August 28 at the Michigan War Dog Memorial in Lyon Township.

The memorial site, which hosted the public service and private interment, has about 10 military dogs buried beside 2,150 pets interred at the historic pet cemetery, according to memorial president and director Phil Weitlauf.

DeYoung and Cena. Photo from American Humane via NewsEdge.

Cena, a bomb-sniffing dog, belonged to Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jeffrey DeYoung, 27, of Muskegon, who said he adopted the black lab in June 2014 after Cena underwent a year of rehabilitation therapy. DeYoung said that he and Cena served together on a seven-month tour of duty in Afghanistan that began in October 2009.

Cena also served with Jon North, a Marine sergeant from Osage, Iowa, who was present at the ceremony, and one other soldier who was not able to be there.

DeYoung said in a eulogy at the memorial service that Cena endured various injuries on his tours of duty, and that he and Cena encountered three improvised explosive devices together. Cena was officially an IED detection dog with the Marine Corps. The dogs walk ahead of patrols and pick up the scent of the explosives in the area and sit down near the explosive before a bomb-disarming unit comes, Weitlauf said.

USMC photo by Cpl. Cody Haas.

USMC photo by Cpl. Cody Haas.

“In every aspect of Cena, he has shed blood, pain, sweat, and tears for this country,” DeYoung said.

North, 28, who served one year with Cena in Afghanistan from 2010 to 2011 didn’t speak at the service, but told the Free Press that Cena was known for being “a slow, old man” and that he was “just kind of a goofy old dog.”

“By the end of your time together, he’s more like a brother, more like a kid. It’s hard to let him go,” North said.

Together, DeYoung and North carried an urn containing Cena’s ashes in a funeral procession that included bagpipers and a military color guard.

USMC Lance Cpl. Jon North and Cena in Marja, Afghanistan. Photo from DoD.

USMC Lance Cpl. Jon North and Cena in Marja, Afghanistan. Photo from DoD.

Weitlauf said that three separate Jeep convoys — including one from Muskegon with DeYoung escorting Cena’s remains — traversed different parts of the state to make it to the service, linking up at different locations including Kalamazoo, Battle Creek, and New Hudson. He said that about 80 Jeeps participated in the convoys, and that about 600 people attended the funeral service — nearly double the 350 attendees the services normally get.

DeYoung, who is a professional public speaker, said that after adopting Cena in 2014, their job wasn’t yet over. They spent the next several years journeying across the country together to places such as President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home and the US Congress, where DeYoung discussed the need to bring home all war dogs prior to retirement “so that what happened in Vietnam with the euthanasia will never happen again.”

At the end of that war, troops were ordered to leave their dogs in Vietnam out of fear of a logistical nightmare and concerns of disease being brought back, Weitlauf said. They had the option to give the dogs over to the South Vietnamese army or to euthanize them, he said. Over 4,000 were left behind, and only 204 made it back home, Weitlauf said.

army military working dog

US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Dalton Smith

Tom Strempka, 69, of Bloomfield Hills was deployed to Vietnam in 1971 at the age of 23, where he served a six-month tour of duty and suffered injuries. He said the funeral gave him closure.

Strempka said that war dogs in Vietnam once saved his platoon of 30 men from an ambush.

“I’m out here for every funeral because it’s long overdue for everyone to recognize the importance of dogs as being part of the unit and not a piece of equipment, the way the government treated them in Vietnam,” Strempka said. “And it’s a glorious day, and I guess that it gives me a little more peace of mind.”

For DeYoung, laying Cena to rest at what he described as the ” Arlington of dogs” also provided some closure.

“Cena’s journey in my life is done. Our work is not, so I will continue doing so in his honor,” DeYoung said to reporters before the ceremony.

TOP ARTICLES
Here's where the military's highest award is made — the Medal of Honor

Approximately 3,500 brave troops have earned our nation's highest honor. Crafting such an important medal takes precision, dedication, and extreme care.

You can buy a civilian version of the Army's new sidearm system

Sig Sauer, maker of the Army's new M17, is planing to make and sell 5,000 civilian versions of the MHS 9mm pistol. There is no estimated price tag yet.

This is why old boats full of dead North Koreans keep floating to Japan

Hundreds of ghost ships, filled with skeletal remains and shrouded in mystery, have washed ashore in Japan in recent years. They may be from North Korea.

This Marine veteran uses this special ingredient to boost his men's morale

Bill Joerger, Marine veteran and South Philly firefighter, uses his culinary talents to help his men combat the stresses they face every day.

Now you can read about every single fallen US troop in the Vietnam War

The Virtual Wall has a searchable, browsable database with casualty information and tributes for every name on "The Wall," broken down by city and state.

10 places in the world where US influence has plummeted

As the U.S. burns bridges with allies left and right, China has been following behind, picking up the pieces, and forging stronger ties around the world.

Watch this WW2 pilot take to the skies in his old trainer aircraft

After the attack against Pearl Harbor, Capt. Jerry Yellin became a P-51 pilot to defend his country, serving until the last combat mission of World War 2.

Russia's biggest transport plane hauled the Soviet space shuttle

The Anotov An-225 can carry 275 tons of normal cargo in its hold, equivalent to a platoon of M1A2 Abrams tanks. Learn more about this Soviet aircraft.

Nobel Prize winner warns the world is 'one tantrum away' from nuclear crisis

While accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons warned that we're just "one tantrum" away from nuclear war.

How Norway's high-speed missile boats pack a big punch

The Skjold can leave a Littoral Combat Ship in the dust, but still packs eight powerful Naval Strike Missiles that'll put some serious hurt on bad guys.