Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Loyal Dog May Lead Iowa Football Team Onto Field During Veteran's Day Tribute

The heartbreaking photo of a slain Navy Seal's pet dog resting next to his flag-draped casket inspired a Twitter campaign to have the loyal dog play a part in the University of Iowa's salute to his owner and all U.S. veterans.

Jon Tumilson, the 35 year-old native of Rockford, Iowa and life-long Iowa Hawkeyes fan, was one of 30 American soldiers killed on Aug. 6. after a helicopter they were in was shot down over Afghanistan.

Tumilson's sacrifice for his country became even more well known when his pet Labrador retriever, "Hawkeye," lay next to his casket during most of Tumilson's funeral service.

A photo of the touching scene was seen by millions and brought the finality of war into U.S. homes.

The University of Iowa will salute all the men and women who have fallen during service to their country-- including U.S. Navy Seal Tumilson-- at one of the Iowa football team's two home games in November.

Veteran's Day is on Nov. 11.  The Hawkeyes play home games on Nov. 5 and Nov. 12.

What part "Hawkeye" will play in the tribute is still being discussed.  There is concern that he could be overwhelmed by the attention.

He is currently being cared for by friends of Tumilson in Texas.

"Hawkeye was a great pet.  He's being taken care of by some wonderful people," said Tumilson's mom Kathleen.  "But I just feel bad that so much of the focus is on the dog.  These guys left a lot of loved ones and there are so many people that have sacrificed their "lives" in the fight for freedom."

University officials are taking great care in respecting the fallen veterans.

"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 Gary Barta the UI's director of athletics.  "We are pleased that Jon's family has agreed to allow us to honor Jon and all citizens lost while serving others later this fall."

Barta mentioned that the decision to not do something at this Saturday's first home game was deliberate.

"We wanted to be respectful of Jon's family and friends and others who are still grieving.  Also, as a fan of the Hawkeyes and the UI football program, I'm certain Jon would expect a solid game plan, one that is thoughtful and respectful, and well-executed on game day," he said.

The university will work with the Tumilson family to determine exactly what role "Hawkeye"may play in commemorating his owner on game day.

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