SOUTH LYON, Mich. (WJBK) - Michigan war dog will be buried with full military honors this weekend after falling ill with terminal bone cancer.
"We decided we wanted to have a resting place for these kinds of dogs," said Phil Weitlauf. "That we need to honor them and show our respect for what they've done for us."
And come Saturday it will be a memorial fit for a Marine. That will be when Cpl. Jeffrey DeYoung will say his final goodbyes to Cena, the bomb-sniffing black lab he served with in Afghanistan and that was diagnosed with bone cancer after they were reunited stateside. Cena was euthanized last month.
"Every Marine has to go out in a set of dress blues," DeYoung said in a previous interview. "That's just the way we are."
Roughly 500 people are expected to attend Cena's service at the Michigan War Dog Memorial in South Lyon. A funeral convoy of Jeeps will travel here from Muskegon and Battle Creek.
"You've got to understand the bond between a soldier and his dog, it's way over the top," said Weitlauf. "We developed the Michigan War Dog Memorial for one reason, to honor all the canines that serve and protect us.
"When you start taking a look at everything, it is a military dog that saved thousands of lives on the battlefield, the police dog that saves our communities and protects their partner, search and rescue dogs that find our lost children and seniors.
Phil Weitlauf is an Army veteran and War Dog Memorial founder. Eighteen service dogs have been interred there.
Cena will receive a full military funeral complete with a flag presentation for its handler, a color guard, and taps performance - even an escort by eight German shepherds.
"The German shepherds have been trained to howl on command," Weitlauf said. "It is called a canine salute to their fallen comrade. They howl for 30 seconds."
Weitlauf says the service Saturday will help provide DeYoung with closure and Cena with a fitting memorial.
"I don't want to turn it into a fanfare," DeYoung said. "But he deserves his own parade. You take it a day at a time. It's all you can do."
The service for Cena will is set for noon Saturday. It is being held at no cost to DeYoung.