By Lynn Coakley, president of EQUUS Foundation
In keeping with the spirit of Memorial Day as it pays tribute to US men and women who have died serving their country in the military and expresses gratitude to all servicemen and women, two military horses, Staff Sergeant Reckless (1949-1968) and Klinger (2000- ), are likewise garnering accolades. Both noted for exemplary service in the US armed forces, they have been honored by the horse world as members of the Horse Stars Hall of Fame, a joint program of the EQUUS Foundation and the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF).
Reckless, a Korean pony who stood 11 hands one inch, and Klinger, a Morgan-Percheron cross that towers above all his human associates at a height of 17 hands, are a contrast not only of size, but of time and place, their years of military service separated by more than half a century and thousands of miles.
Both horses have inspired writers to tell their stories. In 2004, Betsy Beard, devastated when her son, Army Specialist Bradley Beard, was killed in action in Iraq, came to TAPS and began channeling her grief into writing, subsequently becoming the editor of TAPS Magazine. She later researched the TAPS mascot and wrote a fictional children's book, Klinger, a Story of Honor and Hope, for the organization. Published in 2010, the book is given to children in the TAPS program, along with a stuffed horse modeled after Klinger.
Now Janet Barrett's new book, They Called Her Reckless--A True Story of War, Love And One Extraordinary Horse, is making Marines proud and winning a host of new fans for this real-life warhorse. The first full-length biography of the amazing Staff Sergeant Reckless, it tells of the powerful bond between her and her fellow Marines and what it achieved.
Beginning in October 1952, Reckless was a valued presence to the members of the Marine Fifth Regiment fighting the Korean War, who acquired the Jeju pony to haul ammunition to the front lines. Specifically charged with transporting the heavy shells to the 75mm recoilless rifles, she did that and so much more: packing ammo beyond what anyone thought possible, saving lives, raising spirits, and winning the love and respect of all who knew her.
Quickly becoming the revered warhorse of the regiment, the courageous Reckless, the Marines were fond of saying, was the only horse that came out of the war with fame and a name. Given the rank of private first class soon after she came to the Marines, she rose through the ranks, finally promoted to staff sergeant before being retired in 1960 at Camp Pendleton, CA. A statue of her was dedicated at the National Museum of the Marine Corps, in Virginia in 2013, and this past March she joined Klinger as only the second military member of the Horse Stars Hall of Fame. Visit Staff Sgt Reckless in Horse Stars Hall of Fame. and read more at Sgt Reckless Official Site. Video: Sgt Reckless - Korean War Horse Hero
At age 13, Klinger, the oft-described gentle giant, is still a working member of the US Army's Third Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) Caisson Platoon. In ten years of service, his various ceremonial duties have included being part of the team that pulled the caisson in more than 5,000 full-honor military funerals at Arlington National Cemetery.
|Klinger visitng the Washington International Horse Show, Washington, DC. Photo Alden Corrigan|
The kind, steady Klinger also provides another type of comfort, helping young children to cope with the death of a loved one in the armed forces. As the unofficial mascot of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), a national nonprofit veterans service organization, Klinger is often on hand for TAPS events, where his gentleness is evident as he obligingly lowers his head for even the littlest child to pet his muzzle. Video: The Old Guard's Caisson Platoon (A Day in the Life)
This past year, the Washington International Horse Show (WIHS) recognized Klinger for his induction into the Horse Stars Hall of Fame with a special ceremony at center ring on Military Night. WIHS also honored Klinger with a special award to be presented annually at WIHS in his name. The Klinger Perpetual Award for Honor and Service presented by Ariat International and EQUUS Foundation will recognize a horse, individual or organization each year that best demonstrates the values of honor and service as embodied by Klinger. Visit Klinger in the Horse Stars Hall of Fame.
|A new award named in honor of Klinger will be presented annually by WIHS: The Klinger Perpetual Award for Honor and Service presented by Ariat International and EQUUS Foundation will recognize a horse, individual or organization that best demonstrates the values of honor and service as embodied by Klinger.|
Inducted into the Horse Stars Hall of Fame as humanitarian horses, the category overseen by the EQUUS Foundation, Klinger and Reckless show the diversity of what horses can accomplish. Though the role of a warhorse has virtually disappeared from combat, the work Klinger does with the Army and TAPS goes on. While the public generally knows more about sport horses, and many of the finest are selected by USEF for membership in the Hall of Fame, the EQUUS Foundation focuses on promoting the other avenues open to horses.