When retired Army Sgt. 1st class Luciano Yulfo was invited to be the guest of honor at a New York Knicks game, he was ecstatic. The Army sergeant had been a lifelong fan and loved basketball. But ever since he was injured while fighting terrorists in the name of the United States of America, he has not been able to do the things he loved before he joined the Army – which includes playing basketball like he used to.
During the game, Yulfo was called out to center court where he was honored with a commemorative jersey. But the expression of gratitude for basketball legend Larry Johnson was even better for the life-long fan. But after that, Yulfo got the real surprise – and it was the last thing he expected to see on the floor of Madison Square Garden.
Check out the video surprise below and see how Sgt. 1st Class Luciano Yulfo reacts!
Since returning from war, Yulfo has been dealing with his injuries and the psychological damage that war puts on the men and women who fight for America. Because he could use a little help, he applied to receive a service dog from one of the good organizations that provide them to veterans of the armed forces.
But Yulfo had been on the waiting list for a long time because many veterans need service dogs and these highly skilled animals take lots of training and are rare.
During the special game, Yulfo takes center court with Larry Johnson by his side who is presenting the special commemorative jersey. After the announcer introduces the combat hero to the crowd of thousands, the Garden erupts in applause.
Yolfo served 36-years in the military and is an Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduing Freedom veteran.
At the 56-second mark, the announcer tells everyone to direct their attention to Yolfo and his daughter Sonya.
After receiving the jersey from Johnson, the announcer explains that Yolfo has been waiting for a service dog for 18 months. Then a handler walks the beautiful golden retriever out onto the court and retired Sgt. Yolfo can’t believe it.
Yolfo gets down and gives his new service dog, Murphy, a kiss and the two hit it off immediately. It is such a heartwarming moment to see the veteran and his new best friend sharing so much love right off the bat.
Some of the 400,000 viewers shared their thoughts about the special moment and wrote comments on the YouTube page, which include:
“More dogs in basketball please.”
“I’m no dog expert, but that dog looks pretty happy.”
“I am a “dog expert” — if you’ll grant me that title from being an animal professional for over 5 years 🙂 He’s a bit nervous at first (a complete stranger grabbing his face in a new , loud, bright environment, that would be startling for any dog, human, or other animal even if trained!!) which is why his eyes get big and he seems to back up and get low to the ground — but I think he picks up on the joy of Yulfo and recognizes it — and yes gets very happy. Wishing the best of luck for these two. What a great video. Service dogs are amazing.”
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