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SEAL's faithful companion leads to 'NCIS,' life-size statue in Iowa

| Saturday, March 23, 2013, 6:36 p.m.
© Lisa Pembleton / Facebook

DES MOINES — A now-famous photograph of a black Lab guarding his master's flag-draped coffin in 2011 has inspired a TV program and a statue.

Navy SEAL Jon Tumilson, a 35-year-old from Rockford, Iowa, died in Afghanistan in August 2011 when the Chinook helicopter carrying him and 29 others was shot down.

His cherished dog, Hawkeye, led Tumilson's family into the funeral.

What happened next resulted in a photo that went viral.

When Scott Nichols, a family friend, went to the front of the venue to speak, Hawkeye walked to Tumilson's flag-draped coffin, dropped to the floor and stayed there, as if on guard.

Last week's episode of “NCIS” incorporated a scene reminiscent of Tumilson's funeral. “It all started with a photograph,” “NCIS” executive producer Scott Williams wrote on the “NCIS” blog. “It served as yet another stark reminder of the sacrifices made by our military men and women and their families (pets included).”

Touched by the episode, Tumilson's brother-in-law Scott McMeekan reached out to the “NCIS” cast on the CBS blog.

“We will be unveiling a life-size bronze statue of Jon and Hawkeye this summer in his hometown, and would like to personally invite Mark (Harmon) and ... your cast members to come and celebrate that special event with us,” he wrote.

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