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

Uganda Court Annuls Anti-Gay Law

Court says law was passed in parliament without enough members present for a full quorum More

Multimedia Thailand Makes Efforts to Improve Conditions for Migrant Laborers

In Thailand, its not uncommon for parents to bring their children to work; one company, in-collaboration with other organizations, address safety concerns More

In Indonesia, Jihad Video Raises Concern

Video calls on Indonesians to join Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL 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.
In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborersi
X
Steve Herman
August 01, 2014 6:22 PM
Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborers

Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video Public Raises its Voice on Power Plant Pollution

In the United States, proposed rules to cut pollution from the nation’s 600 coal-fired power plants are generating a heated debate. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, charged with writing and implementing the plan, has already received 300,000 written comments. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, another 1,600 people are lining up this week at EPA headquarters and at satellite offices around the country to give their testimony in person.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video China Investigates Powerful Former Security Chief

The public in China is welcoming the Communist Party's decision to investigate one of the country's once most powerful politicians, former domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang. Analysts say the move by President Xi Jinping is not only an effort to win more support for the party, but an essential step to furthering much needed economic reforms and removing those who would stand in the way of change. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.

AppleAndroid