Memorial Day ~ Lest We Forget

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On thy grave the rain shall fall
from the eyes of a mighty nation.

Thomas William Parsons


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From these honored dead we take increased devotion
to that cause for which thy gave
the last full measure of devotion …
that we here highly resolve
that these dead
shall not have died in vain.

Abraham Lincoln

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Former BLM Mustang Escorts Fallen Marine To Arlington Cemetery

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His name was Marine Sgt. Trevor Johnson, a young Marine who was killed by a roadside bomb while serving in Afghanistan.

He was a fifth-generation boy from Montana who grew up riding horses, herding cattle and mending fences.

When the young soldier was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia on a cold winter day, a symbol of the fallen soldier’s ranching roots helped to escort him there.

Lonesome, a horse donated to The Old Guard’s caisson platoon from the Montana Bureau of Land Management lead the caisson that carried Johnson’s casket.

Lonesome was born at a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) holding facility in Butte, Montana on Oct.12, 1995. As a young foal, he was freeze marked, a white identity mark that is clearly seen, today.

Lonesome was eventually adopted by Mark Sant, a BLM Archeologist.  Sant soon learned that Lonesome was exceptional in many ways. He was smart, strong and had a great personality.

When Mark Sant heard the Old Guard was looking for large black mustangs for their Caisson Platoon, he could think of no greater honor than donating Lonesome to be a part of that prestigious team.

Lonesome, the stunning black mustang of the Caisson Platoon, has since participated in hundreds of funerals as well as the funeral for former President Ronald W. Reagan, and the 55th Inaugural Parade.

Lonesome has turned out to be a wonderful ambassador for the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Program as well as a beautiful, well-trained and loved member of the Third Army’s Caisson Platoon.

How the horse came to assist in the interment ceremony for Marine Corps Sgt. Trevor J. Johnson at Arlington took some initiative by Mark Sant.  Although he had never met Johnson, he wanted the Marine’s family to have a symbol of the state as they mourned the loss of a loved one so many, many miles from home.

Mark Sant e-mailed the office of Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer to seek help finding Lonesome – the horse Sant had donated to the military several years ago.

An Aide for the Governor contacted the Montana National Guard, which in turn contacted the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, or Old Guard, which assists in burial services at Arlington National Cemetery.

It’s not a request the Old Guard hears often, but one that was easy to oblige, said Major Steven Cole. “It’s stories like this that show the depths of care that all Americans have for their service men and women,” Cole said.

Cole further stated that to his knowledge, Lonesome is the only mustang from Montana.

Lonesome, front left lead horse

Just as Marine Sgt. Trevor took the lead in the battlefield, Lonesome took the lead on that day in Arlington Cemetery.

A Montana-grown horse carried the body of one of Montana’s brave soldiers.

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References:
DC Military
Bureau of Land Management
Bureau of Land Management

Last Photo: Adam Skoczylas

Memorial Day ~ Remembering The Lost

They hover as a cloud of witnesses above this Nation.
Henry Ward Beecher

And they who for their country die
Shall fill an honored grave,
For glory lights the soldier’s tomb,
And beauty weeps the brave.
Joseph Drake

With the tears a Land hath shed
Their graves should ever be green.

Thomas Bailey Aldrich

Fort Sam Houston’s Caisson Section Pays Tribute to Fallen Soldiers & Veterans

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 A horse-drawn caisson slowly rolls toward a burial site
at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery

It could be an old man who lived a full life. It could be a young man who died too soon.

Better not to know, they say. Do your job, do your best to pay tribute to them.

“This husband, this son has earned the right to have a caisson funeral,” says Sgt. Jason Baldwin.

“We get to take them to their final rest.”

Baldwin was riding Hall, a 22-year-old veteran of these ceremonies, a horse that knew without being told the route through the painful beauty of Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery, with its bright white headstones, to the burial site where the soldier’s family waited.

Fort Sam Houston’s is the only full-time caisson section in the country other than the illustrious Old Guard at Ft. Myer at Arlington Cemetery.

It doesn’t share the same high profile, but it has the same charge: to convey departed soldiers to their final resting place in a rite with deep roots in military tradition.

In this age of modern warfare, there is something comforting in the fact that the Army still has a need for horses.

On this day, when the hearse arrived, the men straightened up in their saddles, their backs erect and their faces grave. The horses shifted their feet and arched their necks, sensing their job was about to begin.

Baldwin trotted out on Hall and saluted as he passed the hearse, then turned to face the caisson.

A six-man military honor guard removed the flag-covered casket from the hearse, gently carried it to the caisson and secured it to its bed.

Baldwin swung Hall around and began to walk. The caisson moved forward.

There was a rhythmic clop-clop-clop of horses’ hooves, jangling of the harness chains and creaking of wheels as the caisson section made its steady, solemn progress.

When the group arrived at the burial spot, the honor guard removed the casket and carried it to the bier (elevated platform).

The caisson moved on. There would be taps and gunfire and a eulogy, but the men on the horses wouldn’t be there for it. Their job was done.

If there is one thing the soldiers of the Fort Sam Houston caisson section are sure of, it’s that what they do has a place in today’s world.

“This is not a regular job, this means something to me. I’ve been to Iraq, I know what happens,” Baldwin says. “I love being able to give honor to those who have fallen or have returned and done their part.”

The Army itself even changed the lyrics of its official song from the original “And the caissons go rolling along” to “And the Army goes rolling along.”

But at Fort Sam Houston, nine soldiers, eight horses and a stable master make sure that a caisson does still roll — for those who served their country and those who paid the ultimate price doing so.

The Lore of the Marwari Horse

The Marwari horse of today is descended from the splendid war horses that have served the ruling families and warriors of feudal India.

Then, and throughout most of India’s history, their status was unparalleled.

They were declared divine, and superior to all men, including those of royal blood.

The Marwari horse is native to the Marwar region of India, and its origins are entwined with local folklore.

The Rathores, a warrior clan of the Raiputs, were driven from their kingdom of Kannaju around the 12th century.

The harsh and desolate land in which they resettled was known as “Maru Pradesh,” the land of death, and it required a rugged horse.

The native Marwari horse proved well suited for both the desert and its role in battle for the Rathore cavalry.

With their long history as warrior horses in the desert, the Marwari are adaptable and agreeable in a variety of rugged environments.

In the desert, their smaller frame and light weight help them negotiate uneven and soft desert sand.

The Marwari breed has long been noted for its exceptional hearing: allowing both horse and rider early warning of impending danger.

The Marwari horses have several distinctive physical characteristics.

They have an extremely proud bearing, distinctive aquiline head and deeply expressive eyes.

Perhaps most noticeable are the ears with their unusual lyre-shape which often appear to meet at the tips.

This is unique to the breed. They are noted for their graceful, active gait and their good nature.

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Link: About The Marwari Breed

Link: Saving The Raja’s Horse ~ Smithsonian Magazine

Last Call For Arlington Farrier

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At Fort Myer, adjacent to Arlington National Cemetery,
a sign painted on the side of the door reads:
“Horse Shoeing. Pete Cote. Nation’s farrier.”

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After 35 years as the farrier at Fort Myer, Va., Pete Cote has learned more than a few things about horses and a little about life — mostly the hard way.

He’s been kicked and stomped on, head-butted and sat on. And still, he says, he feels as though he understands horses “a whole lot better” than people

The trick is to “work with them and not against them,” he says. This is, perhaps, one of the hardest-won lessons he will take with him as he leaves his job as the last civilian farrier on the Army payroll.

Members of the Old Guard, the oldest and most prestigious active-duty infantry unit in the Army, based at Ft. Myer, are gathering outside the stables for reveille when Cote pulls up in his white pickup truck.

Cote jumps out of the truck, opens the big wooden doors of the blacksmith shop, turns on bright fluorescent lights, takes a quick walk through the stables to gauge what needs to be done and stokes the forge with coal.

By 6 a.m. his apprentice arrives, and stable hands start bringing in the horses that need to be shod. Cote ties his mule-skin apron around him and gets to work.

Reaching for a pair of plastic goggles, he grabs a couple of horseshoes from a rack, turns on the bench grinder and sends a shower of sparks flying as he begins to shape them. With an acetylene torch, he cuts the shoes to size, then buries them in the red-hot coals of a forge.

Once the metal turns white-hot, he removes them and hammers out toe clips that willhold them on the hoof. Six nails are usually enough to attach a horseshoe, though Cote remembers having to use 16 of them once on a horse with flat feet.

Every six weeks, each of the 46 horses in the stable is brought in for a new set of shoes.

Every day, two teams of eight horses will be called on to pull a caisson to Arlington National Cemetery. Back and forth, sometimes several times a day, the horses can walk up to 15 miles in a day on hard pavement.

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Cote, 55, knew he wanted to be a farrier from the moment he shod his first horse, at age 12. Drafted into the Army after high school, he spent eight months in Germany as a heavy artilleryman.

But after writing letters to the Pentagon touting his knowledge of horses, he was transferred in 1970 to Fort Myer, where he started working in the stables. After being honorably discharged in 1971, he was hired back as a civilian blacksmith and farrier.

As the primary farrier for the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, the Army’s official ceremonial unit, Cote has helped prepare horses for ceremonial events from Lyndon Johnson’s Funeral in 1973 to Ronald Reagan’s last year.

In between he has shod horses for nine presidential inaugurations and countless military parades.

When asked about the highlights of his career, however, he is more apt to talk about battle scars than ceremonial moments.

Each injury tells a story. The list includes cracked ribs, collapsed lung, herniated disks, torn rotator cuffs in both shoulders and torn ligaments.

In one of his earlier accidents, as he walked up alongside a horse, it turned its head, butting Cote in the face. That earned him a reconstructed nose, not to mention two black eyes.  Another time, a horse fainted and fell over on him.

Then there was the time a horse got scared and kicked him in the mouth. “I couldn’t open my mouth,” says Cote. For weeks he lived on soup and milkshakes, writing down what he wanted to say.

Cote has been teaching an apprentice, Sgt. Bradley Carlson, 27, to succeed him: He advises him to “Keep foot level. Keep shoe level. Make it pleasant to the eye … if it pleases the eye of the owner, the horse is well shoed”.

Carlson says he’s learning to “put what where” and is confident that “I can do pretty good.” Still, Cote leaves “a big shoe to fill.

Eugene Burks, a saddler who has worked with Cote for more than 20 years says that as much as Cote has been a cornerstone of the stable operations, his presence throughout the years has also helped in “holding this platoon together.”

It is with some reluctance that Cote leaves the horses and the members of the Old Guard at Ft.Myer. “My mind says I don’t want to go, but my body says I have to go.”

Cote now looks forward to trail rides with his wife and taking care of his own horses.

 

Denmark’s Jutland Horse and the Carlsberg Brewery

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Also known as the Jydsk Hest (Danish)

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For many centuries heavy horses have been bred on the Jutland Peninsula, Denmark which gave the breed its name. During the 12th century strong, heavy horses were in great demand as war horses.

In the Middle Ages the strong, most willing Jutland was popular with the heavily armoured knights.

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During the 1860’s the English Suffolk Punch stallion Oppenheim LXII stood at stud in Denmark.

The breed became the dominant influence on the Jutland right down to the chestnut coloring. Cleveland Bay and Yorkshire Coach Horses were also used in the development for the breed.

Jutlands were in demand for farm work and pulling heavy loads. 

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Beginning in 1928, there has been a close association between the Jutland breed and the Carlsberg brewery which uses Jutlands to haul brewery wagons.

At one time there were 210 Jutland horses with Carlsberg and today about twenty are still used for beer transportation in Copenhagen.

The Carlsberg horses take part in many shows, festivals and films, promoting both the breed and the brewery.

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The Jutland is a medium-sized draft horse with a quick, free action. Like the Suffolk, the coat is usually chestnut with a flaxen mane and tail, and the breed’s connection with the Suffolk is evident in the compact, round body, the deep girth, and the massive quarters.

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There are also individuals within the breed which are black or brown but they are uncommon. In one respect, it differs entirely from the Suffolk, for the Jutland‘s legs carry a heavy feather that is not found in the former.

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The joints on the Jutland are inclined to be fleshy. The forelegs are short and set wide apart. They are coarse of feather on the lower legs. The withers are broad and flat.

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The neck is short and thick and they have heavily muscled shoulders and exceptionally broad chests. The head is plain and has a squared muzzle but is not unattractive.

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The breed has a reputation for being docile, kindly, and a tireless, willing worker.

Link:  About Denmark’s Jutland Horse

Horses Help Injured GIs Walk Again

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Army Sgt. Christian Valle, who lost both his legs in Iraq, trots on a white Percheron horse, with help from members of the Old Guard at Arlington, Va. 

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The soldiers and the horses from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment at Arlington, also known as The Old Guard, are part of a pilot program at the WalterReedArmyMedicalCenter in nearby Washington to see if troops with prosthetic legs can regain some mobility through horseback riding.

The black and white horses usually are used to pull caissons during military funerals at neighboring ArlingtonNationalCemetery.

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They are now also being used to help soldiers in their long struggle to learn to walk again, to regain strength and to believe in their new limbs.

Therapeutic riding is widely used for people with physical, emotional and mental disabilities, said Mary Jo Beckman, a therapeutic riding instructor.

People and horses walk using the same circular motion in their hips, she said, and riding on the back of a horse can help a person feel and recall that movement.

“Their bodies are getting moved as if they are walking when they are sitting on the horse,” Beckman said.

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Spec. Maxwell Ramsey made small kissing sounds as he tried to coax Wylie, a muscular black Percheron horse, over to the platform where the soldier stood.

He swung the metal and plastic limb that is his new left leg over Wylie’s back and sat down in the saddle.

Soldiers from the unit walked alongside Ramsey and Wylie throughout the session in the yard surrounded by the brick stables that house the horses.

“It’s all about soldiers helping soldiers,” said Col. Bob Pricone, commander of the Old Guard.

Story Link:

 

Half Blind Horse Runs In Kentucky Derby

It’s a beautiful sight seeing the winning horse of the Kentucky Derby being wrapped in roses as everyone cheers wildly from the stands.

However, this year there was another horse, a winner in his own right that deserved cheers and at least one rose.   

His name … Storm in May.  Blind in one eye, he ran the course and finished 16th place out of 20 horses.

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In the crowd at Church Hills Downs was Kent Hersman, a United States Army Officer on special leave from active duty in South Korea.  He came to watch the half-blind horse he had bred and was now running in the Kentucky Derby. This was an event worth traveling around the world to see.

Only twice in the past 25 years has a half blind horse made the Derby lineup, much less finished the race.

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Columnist, Mike Hutsell, of the Jeffersonville, Indiana Evening News and Tribune wrote this about Storm in May: 

Still searching for that underdog pick that you can’t help but get behind and root for? Can’t quite find that “Little Engine that Could” for that tug at your heartstrings kind of selection that you can get behind this year on Kentucky Derby day.

In a sport that needs real feel-good flavor coming off the tragic heels of the Barbaro tale in 2006 — there’s one out there that conjures up the names of Rocky or Rudy or any David who dared tread in the land of Goliaths.

Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve finally got one.

Storm in May, trained by relative unknown trainer Bill Kaplan, is that underdog tale.

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Writing from Louisville, Kentucky, the newspaper headline by Associated Press columnist, Jim Litke, said “Storm In May Made Derby Trip With One Eye” and further describes the remarkable feat of this horse. 

Cover your right eye. Now imagine being loaded into a starting gate alongside the best thoroughbreds in the land. The gate flings open and just ahead and to either side, 19 other horses are jostling for position as the first turn draws near. Then add 100,000 or so railbirds in full roar, throwing off as many decibels as a jet engine on takeoff.

That’s how Saturday’s Kentucky Derby looked and sounded to a long gray colt with one good eye named Storm in May.

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 “He’s been that way since a week after his birth,” trainer Bill Kaplan said Friday morning as a thick mist blanketed the backstretch at Churchill Downs.

A few yards away, the colt bent over and nibbled at the grass, his right ear cocked to track nearby sounds like a radar.

Storm in May, a grandson of Storm Cat and a great-grandson of Triple Crown winner Secretariat, was born with a pedigree worthy of a Derby horse, but that wasn’t all.

A corneal ulcer in his right eye required an operation almost immediately after birth.That surgery went well enough, but several days later, a veterinarian trying to clear up a complication inadvertently punctured the eye.

The only consolation was that the vision in Storm in May’s left eye was perfect.

“And as long as he knows where the rail is,” Kaplan explained, “he won’t get pushed into it or jump it. The rest of the trip he can figure out for himself.

“The blessing is that he doesn’t know he’s different than anyone else,” Kaplan said.

“I’m one of those people who don’t believe anything happens by chance,” said Kent Hersman, a chief warrant officer in the U.S. Army who bred and trained Storm in May before selling him as a 2-year-old.

“So maybe there’s somebody out there that needs to see this horse do well.

From time to time, everybody takes a bad hit in life.

Storm is that inspiration that says, ‘Get back up and give it your best shot.’ Because if nothing else,” Hersman added, “he’ll teach you to enjoy the trip.”

And it’s been a remarkable enough journey already.

Storm in May is one horse that deserves that rose.

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Sailor’s Stolen Wallet Found 56 years Later – To The Day

LEWISTON, Maine — On April 11, 1951, sailor Val Gregoire, 18, was hit over the head while on shore leave in Boston. When he came to, his wallet — and his pants — were gone.

Gregoire’s widow and five children were familiar with the story, which became part of family legend. But now they have proof.

The wallet was discovered by a demolition worker at Boston‘s Paramount Theatre — 56 years to the day Gregoire lost it.

I was stunned,” said Jeannette Gregoire, 75, of Lewiston, who got a call from Kathy Bagen, the worker’s wife. “How could this have survived?”

Richard Bagen of East Weymouth, Mass., was tearing down a wall when the wallet spilled out, his wife said.

“There was no money in the wallet, but it contained Val’s Navy ID, a copy of his Augusta birth certificate and more than a dozen photos.

stolen-wallet-old-photos-350-pixels.jpg  An Armed Forces Liberty Pass was dated  April 11, 1951,” the same month and day Richard Bagen made his discovery.

The date was what freaked me out,” Kathy Bagen told the Sun Journal of Lewiston. 

“Maybe it was meant to be found.” She managed to track down Jeannette Gregoire and mailed the wallet to her.

The wallet contained several pictures of Val, his mom, friends and a laminated photo of Jeannette, then his best girl.

The couple eventually married and was six months shy of their 50th wedding anniversary in 2003 when Val died following complications from a kidney transplant.

He was a retired firefighter in Lewiston.

SunJournal.com