ROMULUS (AP) – After four years, a Marine Corps veteran was reunited Thursday with the black Labrador retriever that helped protect him from explosives in Afghanistan.
Lance Cpl. Jeff DeYoung Jr. was at Detroit Metropolitan Airport when the retired military dog Cena N641 arrived from Baltimore.
“Because of you, I got to have them,” he whispered to the dog, referring to daughters Hayden, 3, and Marliegh, 2, who were playing nearby. The dog licked his face.
The 23-year-old Grand Rapids native lives in Muskegon and takes criminal justice classes at Muskegon Community College, according to the Detroit Free Press.
The Marine and the dog he nicknamed “Chicken” were paired during training in Smithfield, Virginia, in 2009 and last saw each other in 2010.
“We never got to say goodbye. They thought it would be easier. I didn’t agree,” said DeYoung.
DeYoung said that Cena’s bomb-sniffing ability saved him and his fellow Marines “probably more times than I can count.”
“The stress is through the roof,” he said of his service in Afghanistan. “You have to put a lot of trust” in the dog.
Lindsay DeYoung, 25, said it’s been clear for some time that her husband really missed the dog.
“This is all my Christmases rolled into one,” Jeff DeYoung told WXYZ-TV.
Kristen Maurer, who escorted Cena to Michigan, said this was her third such reunion in a month. Maurer works with Houston-based Mission K9 Rescue, which works with the American Humane Association on the project.
© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.