‘Definitely brothers:’ Muskegon Marine lays war dog to rest

Muskegon war dog Cena was laid to rest on Aug. 26, 2017.

LYON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Hundreds of people gathered at the Michigan War Dog Memorial in South Lyon Saturday to pay their last respects to Cena, a bomb-sniffing war dog that served three tours overseas.

Cena’s ashes were buried at the memorial below a custom-made gravestone. During Saturday’s service, a bugler played Taps and a group of dogs howled in a ceremonial tribute.

Cena served one of his tours in Afghanistan with Marine Lance Cpl. Jeff DeYoung, of Muskegon. The pair were separated in 2010 when DeYoung finished his tour overseas, but were reunited four years later when DeYoung adopted Cena upon the dog’s retirement from the military.

“He’s an American hero,” DeYoung said at Saturday’s funeral. “He has forever changed my life in various ways that are just so hard to explain.”

Once the pair was reunited, they worked side-by-side for three years, traveling across the country to advocate for veterans with PTSD and for war dogs post-service.

DeYoung created a bucket listed for Cena last month after doctors diagnosed the dog with bone cancer. Cena was given a party, a cruise in a lineup of jeeps and a final salute. DeYoung carried him to a veterinarian aboard a former World War II ship, were Cena was put to rest.

Saturday, about a month later, DeYoung bid a final farewell to his battlefield companion. It was a ceremony with full military honors.

“We might not have been the same species,” DeYoung said. “But we were most definitely brothers.”

Cena had two other handlers during his missions overseas. One of them, Marine Sgt. Jon North, was also in attendance at Cena’s funeral.

DeYoung plans to continue advocating for veterans and war dogs in Cena’s honor.