News / USA

Horses Escort US Heroes On Final Journey

Unique Horses Lead US Heroes on Final Journeyi
|| 0:00:00
X
November 09, 2012 2:37 PM
For the past several decades, a special group of horses at Arlington National Cemetery has had the solemn task of pulling the caskets of U.S. service members to their final resting place. VOA’s Julie Taboh spent a day with these unique animals.

Unique Horses Lead US Heroes on Final Journey

— A matched team of horses pulls retired Army Col. Robert Gambino's flag-draped casket on a caisson at Arlington National Cemetery.

For his funeral, the decorated soldier receives full military honors; a gun salute and an escort platoon accompanied by the U.S. Army Band.

Gambino is being laid to rest at the nation’s best known military cemetery, just outside of Washington, D.C., the final resting place for those who have served on active duty, presidents and other notable Americans.
A U.S. soldier prepares a horse for caisson duty at Arlington National Cemetery. (VOA/J. Taboh)A U.S. soldier prepares a horse for caisson duty at Arlington National Cemetery. (VOA/J. Taboh)
x
A U.S. soldier prepares a horse for caisson duty at Arlington National Cemetery. (VOA/J. Taboh)
A U.S. soldier prepares a horse for caisson duty at Arlington National Cemetery. (VOA/J. Taboh)
A riderless horse, another distinction of the soldier's rank, follows behind. The boots in the stirrups face backwards, symbolizing the warrior who will never ride again.

In order to execute this solemn task, the animals involved must be as disciplined as the United States Army soldiers who work alongside them.

American tradition

Caisson horses have performed this sacred ritual for more than 60 years.

Both the horses, and the men who care for and ride them, have been specially trained. They are members of the caisson platoon of the 3rd United States Infantry regiment, also known as "The Old Guard".

It’s a tradition that dates back to the early 19th century, when horse-drawn caissons moved men and equipment to and from the battlefront.
U.S. soldiers polish a saddle for a caisson horse before it sets out for duty at Arlington National Cemetery. (VOA/J. Taboh)U.S. soldiers polish a saddle for a caisson horse before it sets out for duty at Arlington National Cemetery. (VOA/J. Taboh)
x
U.S. soldiers polish a saddle for a caisson horse before it sets out for duty at Arlington National Cemetery. (VOA/J. Taboh)
U.S. soldiers polish a saddle for a caisson horse before it sets out for duty at Arlington National Cemetery. (VOA/J. Taboh)

“The horses were used to pull those weapons,” Army Sgt. First Class Eric Hayman says, “and also for getting the wounded back to the hospital. Later, it evolved and we didn’t need those anymore and we later turned that duty into caisson duty moving our fallen heroes in Arlington National Cemetery.”

Distinguishing characteristics

Forty-four horses are housed at the Caisson Barn at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, adjacent to the cemetery.

It takes several hours for each team to be prepared, groomed and made ready for these special occasions.

Hayman is responsible for the health and welfare of the whole platoon of horses, as well as the soldiers.  

When it comes to horse selection for the caisson platoon, he looks for a “cool temperament, good, easy-going characteristics typically found in bigger draft horses.”
 
But there is something more that distinguishes these animals.

“They’re highly disciplined, highly de-sensitized, their natural environment is them running around in a pasture grazing and being a horse and then we put them in this environment where they must stay still," he says. "And in a way, render their own honors to the country’s fallen heroes.”
Caisson horses dry off after their morning showers at the Caisson Barn at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, adjacent to Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. (VOA/J. Taboh)Caisson horses dry off after their morning showers at the Caisson Barn at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, adjacent to Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. (VOA/J. Taboh)
x
Caisson horses dry off after their morning showers at the Caisson Barn at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, adjacent to Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. (VOA/J. Taboh)
Caisson horses dry off after their morning showers at the Caisson Barn at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, adjacent to Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. (VOA/J. Taboh)

A large part of that discipline comes from their special training.

According to Hayman, a herd manager and a couple of horse trainers, who are active duty military, work with the horses every day for four months to train them for the funerals.

“The most important training, for these horses to be part of the caisson wagon, is desensitizing them,” says Hayman. “That is, getting any of that prey instinct out of the horse so when it sees the unfamiliar items out in the civilian life or in society, they don’t get spooked. So we focus a lot on that.”

Once this funeral is complete, the caisson platoon will quickly begin preparing to accompany the next fallen warrior to his or her final resting place. The Old Guard provides final honors at about 40 military funerals each week.

You May Like

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Judge Declares Washington DC Ban on Public Handguns Unconstitutional

Ruling overturns capital city's prohibition on carrying guns in pubic More

Pricey Hepatitis C Drug Draws Criticism

Activists are using the International AIDS Conference to criticize drug companies for charging high prices for life-saving therapies More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid