Thursday, September 23, 2010

Mary Jo and the soldiers at the National Drive

Remember me telling you about my new friends from the National Drive?

Let’s move on now to Mary Jo’s story.  (complete with photos of soldiers!)

If you want to know a whole lot more about Mary Jo, Google her.  I am not kidding.  She’s a pretty cool chick.  Her last name is Beckman.  (I don’t hesitate at all for putting that out there because, as you see once you Google her, plenty of other people are as impressed by her work as I was.)

So Mary Jo is a retired Navy commander and a certified NARHA therapeutic riding instructor and a driving instructor.

She volunteers for the Army and has helped set up a therapeutic riding program through the Army for all branches of armed services to help “wounded warriors,” as she calls them, and veterans.

She was at the 2010 National Drive with four of the soldiers who help her with the program.  They are members of the Caisson Platoon in The Old Guard, technically known at the Army’s 3rd Infantry.

These active duty soldiers were at the National Drive to become certified drivers of this special carriage that was designed to be wheelchair accessible to help wounded warriors who want to learn to drive the carriage as opposed to -- or possibly because they are unable to -- ride a horse.  The carriage was handmade in Holland and paid for (at a $20,000 price tag) by donations.  (No tax dollars were spent in the making of this carriage... but even if my tax dollars were spent in the making of this carriage, I'd be totally good with that because it's just that awesome!)

Okay, that’s all really cool.  You’ll have to read the story in AgriNews when it comes out.  I’ll link it up here as soon as it’s live.

BUT… in meeting these studly…. hot….buffyoung…polite soldiers, I also got to talk with them about what the Caisson Platoon is best known for - pulling the caisson with flag-draped caskets through Arlington National Cemetery for their fallen brothers.

It’s got to be a heavy job, but these guys do it with such class, I was impressed with each of them.

Then, Friday, I got down to doing more research on the Caisson.  The detail, the history, the passion these guys have for this job just blows me away.  I’m not going to attempt to rewrite it all, but here are a few tidbits.

* The soldiers in the Caisson Platoon (I think something said there were 51 of them now) care for the horses used in the funerals, parades and festivals.  They also ride in the funerals, parades and festivals. (I think that same something mentioned that there were 52 horses)

*The stable, where these guys start every day at 4 AM, is ½ mile from Arlington.

*The Caisson horses are adopted out after they’ve served.

*The Caisson horses are all either part of a black team or a white (grey) team.

*The Caisson horses are also (I think) all donated to the Army.

*In training for the Caisson, the guys all have to hand make their own tack using sepcs from an 1890-something-ish manual to preserve authenticity.

*There are two tack rooms.  Every horse on the grounds has two sets of tack.  One is in use one week and the other set is being cleaned and polished.  The tack is rotated weekly.

*The Caisson Platoon performs on average over 1,000 funerals each year.

*The soldiers in the Caisson Platoon have to meet height and weight requirements and are trained on how to be a horseman.  One of the articles I read said the Army prefers to have soldiers with no horse experience when they join the unit so they can learn the Caisson way easier.

*There is a civilian farrier on duty all the time in the barns and one Caisson platoon member as an assistant. (Rick, the guy in the cowboy hat in my photo, is training to be a farrier for the Army through Caisson.)

*The Caisson barns -- built in the 1800s -- are open for tours daily from noon to 4 PM.

Forget the White House, if I ever get to Ft. Myer in Virginia, I was to go tour those barns and meet more of these guys.  I think you all should, too!

Again, I was so impressed with these guys and how seriously they take their job, it really did make me proud to meet them.

Until the next adventure…

1 comment:

  1. How interesting. I've learned something today! Thanks.


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