Aug. 25, 2011 — -- They say that a dog is a man's best friend, and for Navy SEAL Jon Tumilson, 35, and his beloved and loyal dog Hawkeye, not even death could break this powerful bond.
At Tumilson's funeral in Rockford on Aug. 19, 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."
Hawkeye is being cared for by a friend of Tumilson's.
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.