Photo Information

U.S. Marines with Headquarters and Service Battalion, Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego hold a memorial ceremony for Military Working Dog Nero at MCRD San Diego, Sept. 18, 2023. MWD Nero showed great dedication and courage while working on MCRD San Diego from June 11, 2021 through Sept. 9, 2023. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Yvonna Guyette)

Photo by Sgt. Yvonna Guyette

Nero: Guardian in the Night

18 Sep 2023 | Staff Sgt. Melissa L. Karnath Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego

Marines with somber faces saluted from formation as TAPS played and the American flag was lowed to half-mast to remember and honor Military Working Dog Nero, Y235, Sept. 18, 2023. Leaders from the Depot and Headquarters and Service Battalion stood at attention with a sharp salute in support of the Marines and civilian workers of the Depot Provost Marshall Office who took part in the ceremony.

Nero, a military working dog with the PMO at the Depot, died last week.

“We wanted to remember the life of MWD Nero; he was a Marine,” said Sgt. Ulixes Hernandez, from Hawaiian Gardens, Calif., MCRD San Diego Kennel Master.

During the ceremony, Nero’s crate sat empty with his food and water dishes propped up against the front and his military picture atop with his leash and collar. Adjacent to Nero’s belongings, three military working dogs with their handlers paid their respects by standing in the ceremony.

“Nero has been the primary dog for sweeping buildings and searching for explosives; there is no telling how many lives were saved by Nero,” said Maj. Wayne Williams, Provost Marshall Office Officer.

Nero served honorably for six years as military working dog in the Marine Corps. Specifically, Nero served as a patrol explosive detector dog. He served four years at 1st Law Enforcement Battalion, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton before being transferred to the Depot where he honorably served two more years. While at the Depot, Nero conducted eight missions in support of the United States Secret Service, 92 military working dog demonstrations, 2,422 hours of law enforcement of the Depot and searched more than 15, 217 items including buildings, open areas and vehicles.

“This is one of the members of our unit. It is important to pause and recognize what [military working dogs] mean to us,” said Col. Jason Freeby, commanding officer Headquarters and Service Battalion. “I’m glad we did this.”

This was the first known time a ceremony for a military working dog took place at the Depot.

“It is important for me to remember him for closure,” said Cpl. Malachi Groff, from Woodbridge, Va., Nero’s main dog handler. “Work revolves around your dog."

During the ceremony, the flag at half-mast was lowered completely, folded, saluted and presented to Groff. Hernandez, who read the Military Working Dog Guardian of the Night tribute expressing the deep bond between a MWD and his handler, “Together you and I shall experience a bond only other like us will understand…I am a military working dog and together we are guardians of the night.”

“It was just me and him on the road; we grew a bond,” Groff said. “You must trust your dog. When you know your dog, you understand his behavior. He knew something was wrong before me.”

Nero’s cremains will be divided between three of his main handlers, including Groff.

When asked what Groff will remember most about Nero he said, “He was a goofy dog with a lot of quirks.”

Rest easy Nero; you will be remembered.

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