Memorial Day ~ Lest We Forget



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

Thomas William Parsons


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



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


 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.

Friesian Horse Team Joins North Carolina Police Caisson Unit


North Carolina Trooper Ernest Ramsey Welcomes New Recruit


The North Carolina Troopers Association (NCTA) strongly believed a horse-drawn caisson unit was a worthwhile project to take on, because it would add an extra measure of dignity and solemnity to funerals of police officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty.

The newly formed North Carolina State Highway Patrol Caisson Unit were thoroughly searching for the ideal horse team.

Meanwhile, Janet and Jay Stingel were looking for the perfect retirement home for their Friesian four horse team who annually spent their summers at Mackinac Island.

North Carolina Trooper Ernest Ramsey who spearheaded the creation of North Carolina’s caisson unit worked with Janet and Jay Stingel for their Friesians to become the official North Carolina Caisson Unit team.

For the last ten years, the Islanders had called them “The Boys”.

However, the 22-year-olds, Detlef, Fetse, Kenny, and Fonger, won’t be making the trip north from their winter home at Biltmore Stables in Asheville, North Carolina, because the Stingels have donated them to the newly formed North Carolina State Highway Patrol Caisson Unit.

“We wanted to make sure they would have a good home,” said Janet Stingel. “Keeping the team together” was the couple’s biggest concern, agreed Mr. Stingel.


The Island trails and demanding hills were a little more than the aging horses could easily handle, he said, but as caisson horses, they will travel only about six blocks with each funeral hearse they pull.

The Stingels were the first to introduce Islanders to the Friesian breed at a time when no more than 1,000 of them lived in the United States, Mr. Stingel said.

With the gift of the Stingel’s Friesian team to the North Carolina Caisson Unit, the state officially has four new troopers.

The Friesian horse team have been assigned badge numbers and are considered North Carolina Troopers and protected under the law.

Each saddle patch displays an official emblem.


According to Terry Story, NCTA president, the caisson unit is unique and may well be the only state group of its kind in the nation.

Only trained team members with experience working with horses and operating horse team-drawn wagons are authorized to operate the caisson unit.


In addition to use at police officer and firefighter funerals, the unit also can be used for services for current and past governors of North Carolina, incumbent members of the North Carolina General Assembly, and law enforcement officers from other states killed in the line of duty.

The wagon being used was built by members of the Amish community in Ohio and purchased for $18,000 by Trooper Ramsey as a donation to the NCTA. The wagon was made to exact Civil War specifications and is similar to wagons used in Arlington National Cemetery.

Military personnel from the Arlington National Cemetery have agreed to provide training free of charge for caisson unit members.

Clearly there is much excitement about the new additions to the North Carolina State Patrol.  All are committed to making this caisson unit a first class operation.

As for the Stingels, they are encouraging other Friesian owners to donate their horses to similar noble services

Heinz Donates Horse Hitch To Arlington Cemetery


The eight Percheron horses will be used to pay homage to fallen soldiers in ceremonies.


The H. J. Heinz Company announced today that it has donated the eight Percheron horses formerly used as part of the Heinz Hitch program to the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) where they will be used to pay homage to fallen soldiers in the ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery.

This donation will ensure that the horses are well cared for the rest of their lives while honoring our country’s fallen soldiers and veterans,” said Michael Mullen, Director of Global Corporate Affairs for the H. J. Heinz Company.

The Heinz horses will participate in some of the eight full-honor military funerals per day at Arlington.


The new posts also have their perks. Each of the eight Percheron horses will a have full-time, dedicated caretaker and veterinarian and they will join the more than 50 horses already stationed at Fort Myer, VA.

“It’s fitting that our country’s finest will be carried to rest by such a noble breed of horses, the same that once carried knights into battle,” said Chief Warrant Officer Jeremy Light, Caisson Platoon leader with The Old Guard. “We’re truly grateful for Heinz’s unique gift.”

The Percherons will be members of the Caisson Platoon of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), which is the United States Army’s official ceremonial unit.

During a funeral procession, six horses form a team that pulls a flag-draped coffin upon a caisson throughout Arlington National Cemetery.

Historic Hooves
The eight Percheron horses are more than up to this task, generating more than 16,000 pounds of raw horsepower. On several occasions, they’ve been known to pull a 30,000-pound Rose Parade float with no complaints.

Originally from the Perche region of France, Percherons are the only line of heavy horses not originally bred as draft horses. The horses first appeared more than 1,000 years ago and are a cross between Arabian Stallions and Flemish Plow Mares.

They were bred specifically to blend power, agility and speed. These attributes made the Percherons favored horses for carrying knights confidently into battle.

Today, Percherons are enjoying a renewed popularity among horsemen for their gentle nature, power and control.

Regal Relic Retired
Heinz discontinued the traveling Heinz Hitch program in early 2006 as it switched its focus to more contemporary consumer marketing. In July, the Heinz Hitch wagon, a replica of a historic 1800s-era horse-drawn grocery cart, was donated to the Senator John Heinz History Center, and is currently on long-term display in the Center’s first-floor Great Hall.

The Hitch was showcased at parades, fairs and expositions throughout the United States and Canada, including high-profile events like the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and Major League Baseball’s Opening Day Parade.

It is with a great sense of pride for all of American as these eight Percherons assume their Duty with the Department of the Army to pay tribute to our country’s heroes.

Earlier Post:  Famed Heinz Hitch Now History

Barbaro, Secretariat Art to Support Laminitis Research


A new set of prints and a poster featuring Triple Crown winner Secretariat and 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro will benefit the fight against laminitis, the painful hoof disease that ended both their lives.

The works, entitled “Memories of Greatness, were created by equine artist Jaime Corum. They were unveiled the weekend of Aug. 4 and 5 at Saratoga Race Course.

Proceeds will benefit the Laminitis Fund at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine’s NewBoltonCenter.

The poster shows Secretariat and Barbaro together in one 16- by-20-inch piece, with their names and stables noted.

The print set features the horses separately, along with the artistic marks representing the colors of the silks they carried.

Both the poster and the print sets are available through


Horses Help Injured GIs Walk Again


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. 


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.


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.


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:


Uncle David and His Little Tea Party


In Celebration of the 4th of July



Excerpt from”Our Family History”

Considered a rebel by some and  a hero by others … it is certain he was committed to a cause. He was no quieter on the pages of history than he must have been in real life.

His name was David Kennison and according to the family tree, he was my fifth great-uncle. Born in New Hampshire, November 17, 1736, he soon moved with his parents to Booths Bay, Maine.

By the time he had reached his thirities, there was no doubt that he had proven himself to be an active participant in the rebellious  pre-revolutionary war events, especially judging by David’s performance at the Boston Tea party in 1773, when the malcontents dumped the precious cargo into the harbor.


As described in “The Price of Loyalty” the event went something like this:

“… Thus assembled, on December 14th, they whiled away the Time in Speech-making, hissing & clapping, cursing & swearing untill it grew near to Darkness; & then the signal was given, to act their Deeds of Darkness.  They crowded down to the Wharves where the Tea Ships lay, & began to unlade. They then burst the chests of Tea, when many Persons filled their Bags & their Pockets with it; & made a Tea Pot of the Harbor…”

It seems that some of the tea did, in fact, find its way into David Kennison’s pocket, for according to a surviving family letter, David’s mother absolutely refused to drink any of the tea which her son brought home to her.

David was a “revolutionist” even before the Revolution. He was there when the fuse to the War of Independence was lit.

The scene was the Boston “massacre’ of 1770 when British soldiers fired into a crowd of hostile civilians, killing five.

The crowd at the massacre was described by John Adams, defense attorney for the British soldiers, as “a motley rabble of saucy boys … and outlandish jack tarrs.”

David Kennison was one of those saucy boys, perhaps even one of the outlandish jack tarrs. 

Eager and committed to the cause, David fought through the battles of Lexington, Bunker Hill, Long Island, White Plains, Fort Washington, Brandywine, Red Bank, Germantown, Delaware, Hudson, and Philadelphia.

He was also involved in the minor fighting on Staten Island and Saratoga Springs. It seems only fitting that he was present at the surrender of Cornwallis.

David remained on active service duty during the entire Revolutionary war and was eventually captured by the Mohawk Indians at Saratoga and held as a prisoner by them for nineteen months.

When he was finally freed, he ventured to Vermont for the quiet life of a farmer.The peacefulness of this existence was soon too much for him.

Even though he was seventy six years old when the War of 1812 broke out, David enlisted at once, serving as corporal in Captain A. F. Hull’s Company, Ninth Regiment of the Infantry and fighting in the battle at Sackett’s Harbor.

It was there that his hand was badly mangled by a musket ball, landing him in the hospital.

He also fought in the battle at Williamsburg and narrowly escaped injury during the Dearborn Massacre.

But it was at the conclusion of the war and during peace time that David’s troubles really began.

He had moved to Lyme, Connecticut to again take up farming and while cutting down a tree, had an almost fatal accident when falling timber crushed his chest and fractured his skull.

Later, a horse kicked him in the face leaving permanent scars.

Nevertheless, even though he was in his eighties, he was soon able to resume faithful attendance at militia drills.

While at a training session in New YorkState, the premature explosion of a cannon charge shattered both of his legs between the knees and ankles.

But nothing dissuaded his spirits or his enthusiasm. He was one hundred and ten years old when he proclaimed his certainty that if he really wanted to, he could walk twenty miles in a day .

He died on February 24, 1852, at the age of one hundred and fifteen years, three months and seventeen days.

During his life he had voted for Washington, Madison, Monroe, Jackson, Van Buren and Polk.

His grave in Lincoln Park, Illinois was marked by a monument erected by the Daughters of the American Revolution and honored again at the Bicentennial in 1976.

Had he lived a few more years, there’s little doubt that he would have volunteered for the Union Army!


But wait … there’s more to the story.

When Chicago History Museum President Gary T. Johnson told his staff it was time to show off the museum’s vast collection of treasured items, they had an idea.

The resulting “Is It Real?” exhibit invites visitors to assume the role of curator, determining if something is a real historical find, a close call or just a bald-faced lie.

In some regard, it’s not dissimilar from the TV show “CSI,” which is also the theme of a new exhibit at Chicago’s Museum of Science & Industry in which visitors are asked to use their detective skills.

There’s a box of tea leaves that supposedly are from David Kennison, of Chicago, who died in 1852. He claimed to be 115, and to have participated in the Boston Tea Party.

Further research later found he was alive, but far too young to have pitched tea off any dock.

Nonetheless, Chicago gave him a hero’s sendoff when he died, probably in his 80s.

“You think people were so gullible and we’re so smart now, but people wanted to have that connection to the past,” Alter said.

“People wanted to believe Kennison, and I think he realized that.

“We have no idea if this is the tea he had,” Alter said, holding a small box that does contain tea leaves.

Inside the glass box is a typewritten note touting Kennison being at the Boston Tea Party.

Did Kennison really heave tea into Boston Harbor? Are the tea leaves from the 1700s, or a corner store 100 years ago?  It’s just another one of the mystery questions.

As for me, considering all of the other proven battles in which Uncle David fought … I think I’ll just give him credit for his little Tea Party.


Except from: “Our Family History”

Reference: Chicago History Museum

Reference: Chicago Public Library, Austin Daughter of the American Revolution (David Kennison Chapter)

Seabiscuit Statue Returns To Horse Legend’s Home And Final Resting Place


Willits, CA, June 23, 2007

After an absence of more than 55 years, a classic, life-sized bronze sculpture of the legendary American racehorse Seabiscuit was returned to its original home at Ridgecrest Ranch in Willits, California. 

The statue was transported by an historic, fully restored Seabiscuit-era van once used at the ranch. 

The sculpture departed Atlas Bronze Castings in Salt Lake City on April 10 for a “Seabiscuit- Homecoming Tour”.


With police escorts and in a takeoff on Seabiscuit’s old whistlestop tours, ceremonial visits were made across the country.

A Call to Post preceded and concluded each stop.


The final “whistlestop” was held aboard a historic Northwest Pacific caboose circa 1909-1971.

As the time honored van carrying the Seabiscuit statue arrived at Ridgewood Ranch, the magnificent old statue was finally back home.

A private ceremony was held at the place where the legendary Seabiscuit spent his final racing and retirement years, died, and was buried.

‘May the World Never Forget the Magnificent Seabiscuit’    (Laura Hillenbrand)

 Classic Photos




Ridgewood Ranch


Seabiscuit Press Stop


Seabiscuit with trainer, Tom Smith, Bing Crosby and others.


Seabiscuit Arrives At Home 

Historic Video:  Seabiscuit and War Admiral Race 1938

Story Link:  Seabiscuit Heritage Foundation

Woman, 95, to be Oldest College Graduate

Sitting on the front row in her college classes carefully taking notes, Nola Ochs is just as likely to answer questions as to ask them. That’s not the only thing distinguishing her from fellow students at Fort Hays State University. She’s 95, and when she graduates May 12, she’ll be what is believed to be the world’s oldest person to be awarded a college degree. 


She didn’t plan it that way. She just loved to learn as a teenager on a Hodgeman County farm, then as a teacher at a one-room school after graduating from high school and later as a farm wife and mother.

“That yearning for study was still there. I came here with no thought of it being an unusual thing at all,” she said. “It was something I wanted to do. It gave me a feeling of satisfaction. I like to study and learn.

The record Ochs will break, according to Guinness World Records, belongs to Mozelle Richardson, who at age 90 in 2004 received a journalism degree from the University of

“We should all be so lucky and do such amazing things. Her achievement challenges us all to reach for our own goals and dreams,” said Tom Nelson, AARP chief operating officer in Washington.

She’s getting offers for television appearances, and reporters show up wanting to interview her. She acknowledges enjoying it.

“It brings attention to this college and this part of the state. Good people live here,” she said. “And I still wear the same size hat.

But she added: “I don’t dwell on my age. It might limit what I can do. As long as I have my mind and health, it’s just a number.

Ochs is proudest of being the matriarch of a family that includes three sons — a fourth died in 1995 — along with 13 grandchildren and 15 great grandchildren.

“They’re all such fine boys,” she said. “Our main crop is our children, and the farm is a good place to raise them.

Ochs started taking classes at Dodge City Community College after her husband of 39 years, Vernon, died in 1972. A class here and there over the years, and she was close to having enough hours for an undergraduate degree.

Last fall, Ochs moved the 100 miles from her farm southwest of Jetmore to an apartment on campus to complete the final 30 hours to get a general studies degree with an emphasis on history.

At 5-foot-2, her white hair pulled into a bun, she walks purposely down hallways to classes with her books in a cloth tote bag. Students nod and smile; she’s described as witty, charming and down to earth.

“Everybody has accepted me, and I feel just like another student,” she said. “The students respect me.

Coming out of a classroom, Skyla Foster, a junior majoring in history, sees Ochs and calls out to her. To everyone on campus, she’s “Nola,” not Mrs. Ochs — and that’s the way she wants it.

“She is pretty neat, a very interesting person and very knowledgeable,” Foster said.

Todd Leahy, history department chairman, wondered at first if Ochs could keep up with the other students. After her second week, all doubts were gone, as he discovered she could provide tidbits of history.

Leahy, who had Ochs in four classes, wants to record oral histories with her after she graduates.

“I can tell them about it, but to have Nola in class adds a dynamic that can’t be topped,” Leahy said. “It’s a firsthand perspective you seldom get.

For instance, Ochs offered recollections of the 1930s
Midwest dust bowl, when skies were so dark that lamps were lit during the day and wet sheets were placed over windows to keep out dust that sounded like pelting sleet hitting the house.

During a discussion about World War II, Ochs told how she and her husband, along with other wheat farmers in the area, grew soybeans on some of their acres for the war effort.

“I would have never talked about that in class, but she brought it up and we talked about it,” Leahy said. “She often adds color to the face of history.

Ochs hasn’t complained about the work, nor has she asked for special considerations.

In her one-bedroom apartment, books are open and papers and notes are within easy reach when she sits down at her computer to research and write.

“I came up here with that purpose. No, I never doubted it. Other people did it,” she said. “I came up here to work, and I enjoy it.

Ochs said she has learned new things. She said she has attained a better understanding of Russian history and the role Dwight Eisenhower played in the D-Day invasion.

An added joy for Ochs is that her 21-year-old granddaughter, Alexandra Ochs, will graduate with her.

“How many people my age have a chance to hang out with their grandmothers? She’s really accepted by the other students,” Alexandra said. “They enjoy her, but probably not as much as I do.

Ochs said she looks forward to getting home to help with the wheat harvest, as she has done every year for as long as she can remember. After harvest, she might travel or take more classes at a community college.

After that? “I’m going to seek employment on a cruise ship as a storyteller,” she said, smiling. The determined look in her eye leaves no doubt she’s serious.

CARL MANNING, Associated Press Writer   April 2007