Joel Bissell /Muskegon Chronicle/AP
July 28, 2017 10:20 AM

It’s always hard to say farewell to our four-legged friends, but Cena the dog received a legendary send-off to honor his years of American service.

According to the Associated Press, the 10-year-old black Lab was a bomb-sniffing canine for the U.S. Marines, serving three terms in Afghanistan, until he retired in 2014. Lance Cpl. Jeff DeYoung was paired with the dog from 2009 to 2010 while on a combat tour in Afghanistan, and Young adopted Cena upon the dog’s retirement. The faithful pup had kept him warm during cold desert nights and comforted him when he lost seven friends in three weeks. In return, DeYoung had carried Cena across rivers and protected the pup from heavy Taliban fire. Once they were both back stateside, Cena acted as a service dog, helping DeYoung cope with PTSD.

When Cena was recently diagnosed with terminal bone cancer, DeYoung knew he had to do something special to celebrate Cena’s life before their final goodbye.

Joel Bissell/Muskegon Chronicle/AP

“My whole adult life I’ve had Cena,” DeYoung said. “When I was 19 overseas learning how to be responsible, I had Cena. And now I’m 27 and I’m having to say goodbye to one of the biggest pieces of my life.”

DeYoung organized an event at USS LST 393 Museum, a museum ship in Muskegon, Michigan. First, DeYoung took his best buddy for one last ride in a decorated, topless Jeep that was called “Cancer Response Team.” The pup was outfitted in a homemade, blue Marine vest (DeYoung also wore his own blue uniform), and attendees — 100 in all, according to MLive.com  — gave a final three-volley salute while “Taps” played in the background.

“It started off with my basically wanting to go to a dealership and wanting to borrow a Jeep for a day and really small to a community tribute or a community parade for him,” said DeYoung. “He’s truly deserved it all. The support, all the love people are giving him, he can see it and he can feel it.”

Joel Bissell/Muskegon Chronicle/AP

U.S. Marine Corps League, Michigan State Police, Muskegon County Sheriff’s Office, Muskegon City Police, Muskegon Fire Department and many more officers, including a canine officer named Rex, paid their last respects before Cena was euthanized aboard the ship.

Chaplain Wesley Spyke of Muskegon County Veteran Affairs addressed the crowd in prayer. “Lord, it is with heavy hearts that we are sending another Marine to you today,” he said.

A GoFundMe page to help raise donations toward a headstone for Cena has already met its goal.

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