Lifestyle & Human Interest

Veteran Thinks He's Getting Honored at Game. But Then He Sees Surprise Gift Hiding Around Corner


Retired United States Army First Class Sargeant Luciano Yulfo was brought to center court during the Knicks game at Madison Square Garden. Thanks to the team’s Hoops for Troops program, they had a big surprise planned for him!

Sgt. Yulfo spent 36 years in the military, serving in both Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. In July 2014, he was injured while deployed in Afghanistan and medically retired from active duty.

Following his injury, Sgt. Yulfo was stationed at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center two years. After giving so much to our country, he retired in April of 2016.

Upon returning to America, the veteran applied for a service dog to assist him with his injuries suffered in Afghanistan. He had been on a waiting list for over 18 months.

On November 9th, the Knicks had a special surprise for Sgt. Yulfo. The evening was Military Appreciation Night and the game was dedicated to all members of the military.

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Between quarters, they brought him to center court and he was presented with a personalized Knicks jersey. But that wasn’t all!

The announcers continued with the rest of his surprise: Presenting him with his new service dog, Murphy.

His new best friend was donated by Paws of War, an organization that trains and places rescued dogs with U.S. Military Veterans. Each dog is trained specifically to fulfill the needs of the veteran they’ll be serving.

Service dogs are often used for emotional support and PTSD, while others are trained to retrieve items for those in wheelchairs and stand steady as balance for veterans suffering from traumatic brain injuries. All the training and initial veterinary costs are take care of by Paws of War.


As part of their Hoops for Troops program, the Knicks have honored several military members — both active and veteran — during past games. Honorees also get the opportunity to attend a team practice and meet the players.

Hoops for Troops works in conjunction with teams, players, the Department of Defense, and USO to help also improve our communities across the country. For Sgt. Yulfo, those joint efforts mean he no longer has to wait for the companion he deserves.

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Keeley is a former contributor to The Western Journal.
Keeley is a former contributor to The Western Journal.