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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
The 13 funniest memes for the week of Sept. 22
Kim Jong Un has an H-Bomb. These good ol' fashioned military memes will make your last few moments less excruciating. Memes are proven to cool hydrogen burns.
How Taco Bell influenced a rapper to become a Marine
In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast, we speak with The Marine Rapper a.k.a. TMR about how he went from wrapping tacos to rapping music lyrics.
These are the best military photos for the week of September 23
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they’re always capturing what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week.
The US just sent 2,200 of these Fort Bragg paratroopers to Afghanistan
Approximately 2,200 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers began quietly deploying this month, part of a long-discussed troop surge to Afghanistan.
The Marines just took a look at this Civil War battlefield to learn military lessons for the future
The battle, which involved 18,456 mounted troops and was the largest cavalry clash in North America, also remains largely unknown by today's students of military history.
The Air Force is finally getting with the program and planning for urban fights
Air Force Chief of Staff David Goldfein has added urban warfare to his list of top focus areas, predicting that much of the world will live in megacities.
How we found out it's not so easy to fly a Reaper drone
Let's just say computer flight simulator games don't provide enough experience to make a good landing.
Here's what the Marines of 'Full Metal Jacket' are doing today
The Marines killed the enemy together, laughed together, and shared a Da Nang hooker together. But what happened to them after the war? You're about to find out.
Army ditches search for 7.62 battle rifle — for now
Less than two months after the Army issued a request from industry to provide up to 50,000 7.62 battle rifles, sources say the service has pulled the plug on the program.
THE MIGHTY SURVEY GIVE-AWAY
We want to hear your thoughts. Complete our survey for a chance to win 1 of 5 gaming consoles