After Cena was diagnosed with bone cancer, Corporal Jeff De Young knew his best friend didn’t have much longer. So when he discovered that 10-year-old Cena had only weeks to live, he set out on a mission to make sure his buddy got a send off that was hero worthy. And for the record, the words “best friend” may be an understatement given everything the two have been through together.
Brothers in Arms
Between multiple deployments to Afghanistan, bombs, dead comrades, and PTSD, they’ve faced more in the last decade than most of us will ever have to stare down. Jeff describes what it was like being on the battlefield while under heavy fire from the Taliban. Or freezing in a desert with only Cena to keep him warm.
Battles on the Home Front
But as hard as it was being on the battlefield, things weren’t exactly any easier on the home front. After De Young returned home, Cena was called to duty again. Even though he was never far from Jeff’s mind, Jeff wasn’t sure he would ever see his beloved dog again. In that time, Jeff had gotten married, had children, and then watched his marriage crumble as a result of unrecognized PTSD.
“The military teaches us how to put the uniform on, but it doesn’t teach us how to take it off, metaphorically speaking.”
Four long years passed before Jeff received a call from a stranger letting him know that Cena would be retired and was being put up for adoption. He couldn’t say “Yes” fast enough, and in 2014, De Young officially adopted Cena. In turn, Cena became his service dog and helped De Young through his personal battle with PTSD.
Cena’s Send Off
The pair’s story went viral after Jeff took to Facebook asking if someone would donate their jeep for a day so that Cena could experience one last ride with the top down.
To his surprise more than 1,100 people responded, pledging more than $45,000 in donations.
And when the day came- the worst day of every dog owner’s life- hundreds showed up to honor Cena. There were several rounds of rifle fire, followed by Taps. And best friend Jeff carried Cena onto the decommissioned ship while onlookers provided the decorated dog one final salute. There, they said their final goodbyes.
“Lord, it is with heavy hearts that we are sending another Marine to you today,” said Wesley Spkye, the chaplain who officiated the service.
Semper Fi, Cena.