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

Video Experts Warn World Losing Ebola Fight

Doctors Without Borders says world is losing battle against Ebola, unless wealthy nations dispatch specialized biological disaster response teams More

Video Experts: Rise of Islamic State Significant Development in Jihadism

Many analysts contend the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years More

US-Based Hong Kongers Pledge Support for Pro-Democracy Activists

Democracy advocates call on Chinese living abroad to join them in opposing new election rules for their home territory 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.
Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearancei
X
Elizabeth Lee
September 02, 2014 8:57 PM
Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearance

Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Experts See Rise of ISIS as Significant Development

The Islamic State’s rise seems sudden. It caught the U.S. by surprise this summer when it captured large portions of northern Iraq and spread its wings in neighboring Syria. But many analysts contend that the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years. VOA's Jela de Franceschi takes a closer look at the rise of ISIS and its implications for the Middle East and beyond.
Video

Video Israel Concerned Over Syrian Rebels in Golan

Israeli officials are following with concern the recent fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces near the contested Golan Heights. Forty-four U.N. peacekeepers from Fiji have been seized by Syrian Islamist rebels and the clashes occasionally have spilled into Israel. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.

AppleAndroid