Last Friday, more than 1,500 mourners – including one Labrador Retriever – paid their last respects to Petty Officer Jon T. Tumilson, one of the 22 Navy SEALs killed when their helicopter was shot down by Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan two weeks ago.
Hawkeye, Tumilson’s ribbon-winning Lab, escorted family members into the Rudd-Rockford-Marble Rock gymnasium in Rockford, Iowa, for the funeral service, reports the Des Moines Register.
His new dog dad, Scott Nichols, a longtime friend of Tumilson, led Hawkeye up to the flag-draped coffin. In a poignant video loop, Hawkeye can be seen collapsing on the floor and heaving a sigh. He remained there through the service, beside his master for one final time.
Tumilson, 35, was a sniper and trained in underwater demolition, and had dreamed of being a SEAL since he was a teenager. His family and friends all agreed that he died doing what he loved.
Ben Ives, a fellow serviceman, described Tumilson as a “human Labrador,” according to globegazette.com, eliciting laughter from the mourners. “He was smart, athletic and you want him to be with you everywhere you go.”
Along with family, friends and Hawkeye, the Des Moines Register reports that Tumilson’s funeral was attended by dozens of military personnel, the Rockford American Legion Post, Gov. Terry Branstad and U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley.
“George and Kathy, you helped raised a young man you should be proud of,” U.S. Navy Lt. Robert Bradshaw told Tumilson’s parents during the service.
“You raised an outstanding man — a hero.”