The loyal Navy SEAL dog named Hawkeye who captured millions of hearts when he lay at the foot of his master's casket has found happiness and comfort in a new home.
Slain Navy SEAL Jon Tumilson's longtime friend Scott Nichols and his family are Hawkeye's new owners, confirms Carol Darby, a public affairs officer from Fort Bragg supporting the Tumilson family.
"Scott is Hawkeye's new owner and that is according to Jon's wishes," Darby told ABCNews.com. "He's very happy. He's with a family that he has known for a long time and that has loved him for a long time."
The Nichols family cared for Hawkeye when Tumilson was away on duty. Darby said that Hawkeye has gained a human family and a dog family, including two or three other Labradors owned by the Nichols.
Hawkeye may find himself in the limelight once again in November when the University of Iowa's football team the Hawkeyes honors fallen service men and women, including Iowa native Tumilson, at a home game in November. The university is working with the Tumilson family to determine what role the dog will play in the day's events.
Some have suggested that Hawkeye the dog could lead the Hawkeyes onto the field on game day.
"Jon's death is a tragedy that reminds us of the great personal sacrifice made by many who serve our country, our state, and our community," said University of Iowa Director of Athletics Gary Barta in a statement. "We are very pleased that Jon's family has agreed to allow us to honor Jon and all citizens lost while serving others later this fall."
Darby also said that while the Tumilson family appreciated the outpouring of love and support coming from the photo, they want people to remember that 30 people lost their lives that day.
"We should not lose sight of that fact, especially as we approach this anniversary next weekend. We should remember each and every one who suffered on 9/11 and all those who have lost their lives since in support of our nation and the Afghan nation," Darby said.
The world first fell in love with Hawkeye after seeing a photo of the canine at Tumilson's funeral in Rockford on Aug. 19 where his beloved canine lay at the foot of the casket throughout the ceremony. Tumilson's cousin Lisa Pembleton took the heart-wrenching photo of the devoted dog, known to Tumilson's family and friends as his "son."
"I took this picture and that was my view throughout the entire funeral. I couldn't NOT take a picture," Pembleton said. "It took several attempts since every time I wasn't crying and could focus on taking it, there was a SEAL at the microphone and I didn't want to take a picture with them for security and respect reasons. Our family is devastated to say the least."
Petty Officer Tumilson, from Rockford, Iowa, was one of 22 Navy SEALS who died when their Chinook helicopter was shot down by Afghan insurgents, claiming the lives of 30 Americans.
More than 50 SEALs were in attendance at the funeral. Though the funeral was taped, most of it was only audio so as not to disclose the identity of the SEALs.
"From a young age, J.T. wanted nothing more than to be a SEAL," said an attendee, possibly a SEAL, in a speech at the funeral. "I didn't realize the depth of his desire until I stepped into his bedroom at his parent's house for the first time. His room was a shrine … pictures, paintings, books and videos all related to being a Navy SEAL."
Tumilson joined the Navy in 1995 and was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and Defense Meritorious Service Medal, in addition to numerous medals he won throughout his service. He is survived by a large family, including his parents, two sisters and many extended relatives.
"Even though you were the baby of the family, I want you to know how much I looked up to you," said one of his sisters, speaking through tears at the funeral. "You always showed so much strength, courage, determination and selfless love."
In a statement, Tumilson's family said that he "died living his dream as a Navy SEAL."
"Jon was a Navy SEAL and he was proud to die this way—for his country and for the people he loved so much," his family wrote. "We respect the nature of their jobs and the need to protect these men and women so they can continue to serve our nation; therefore, we will not provide details of Jon's military service."
Tumilson's family has started a memorial fund and contributions can be made to Frogman 238 Memorial Fund, First Security Bank and Trust, 201 West Main Ave., Rockford, IA 50468.