On July 26, Lance Corporal Jeff DeYoung said his final goodbye to a battle buddy who had been there for him through tough times. They went on a ride together, and shared some moments of remembrance… because Cena, the Military Bomb Sniffing dog, had to be put down from an aggressive form of bone cancer.
Cena and Jeff served together in Afghanistan 2009- 2010. Cena had 3 deployments to Afghanistan, a true hero who saved countless lives.
When Jeff was deployed with Cena, some of the Marines called the young dog “Pressure plate.” Jeff lovingly called him “Chicken.” He seemed to enjoy his job, and at just 2 1/2 years old at the time, he likely did. Once in a while he’d lose interest, but DeYoung had just the right remedy- a rubber ball. Soon Cena was ready to go back to work.
Jeff carried Cena across rivers. The dog kept him warm at night. DeYoung protected Cena with his body while under fire from the enemy. The dog comforted Jeff when he lost 7 of his friends. They were inseparable. Best friends.
Jeff and Cena were separated for 4 long years after he returned from war. In 2014, after Jeff learned that the dog had developed a hip injury and would be retired… it was a chance to adopt him. So on June 5, 2014, he and his buddy were reunited at Detroit Metro Airport. That reunion was an emotional one as well. He referred to the black lab as his brother, an animal that ultimately helped Jeff overcome PTSD. Once again, Cena was a hero.
When Jeff noticed Cena wasn’t putting any weight on his front left leg, he took the dog to the vet. The diagnosis was terminal bone cancer. Jeff wanted to do something soon to make his US Marine brother’s final days memorable.
A friend sewed a special Marine Corps Uniform for the dog. He was heavily medicated and in a lot of pain, so he couldn’t walk – they put him in a cart so that people could say their goodbyes.
When Jeff requested a Jeep Wrangler for Cena’s final ride, the response was overwhelming. Several Convoys joined them, including the Patriot Guard. They all met at 4 p.m. in Muskegon, for the ride to LST 393, where Cena would be euthanized. It was a celebration of life, complete with Taps. Military honors for a hero.
“My last night with Cena. Words cannot convey what I’m feeling and thinking. I want to run away and not face what I must do. But he needs me to be strong and set him free. He has blessed my life with love and admiring. Because of him, I got to have a family. Because of him, I was able to live. May God forgive me for what I do tomorrow. And may the Lord greet you with open arms and a nice ear scratch.
Goodnight my friend, goodbye my brother. May you rest your head tonight knowing how loved you are and how dearly you will be missed.” Jeff DeYoung
R.I.P. Cena. You will always be a hero.