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

Lest We Forget …

 

MEMORIAL DAY
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Remember the fallen … the price was so great.

 

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

fort-sam-houston-national-cemetery.jpg

 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.