Cena and Lance Cpl. Jeffrey DeYoung, of Muskegon, MI, served together in Afghanistan for just six months, but that’s all it took for an unbreakable bond to form.
DeYoung had fulfilled his obligation to the military and his faithful friend by helping Cena ford rivers and survive the cold desert nights, sometimes while under fire from the Taliban. According to Mlive, Cena returned the favor by comforting his handler after seven of his fellow soldiers were killed in less than a month.
When DeYoung was honorably discharged, Cena remained in service. It would be over four years before they would see each other again. And when the black labrador was retired in 2014, DeYoung jumped at the opportunity to adopt his furry veteran friend.
For the next three years, DeYoung and Cena cherished every moment together, this time without worry of enemy attack.
Sadly, however, Cena was targeted by another threat that DeYoung could not protect him from. Recognizing a slight limp, DeYoung took his dog to see a specialist, who diagnosed 10-year-old Cena with terminal bone cancer.
DeYoung spent the following days organizing a bucket list for his dog, which included riding in an open Jeep, before Cena would be put to sleep on July 26.
“My last night with Cena,” the former Lance Cpl. posted to Facebook. “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.”