Cross-posted from Voices of America News at voanews.com
WRITTEN BY JULIE TABOE
ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA (Nov. 9, 2012) — 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.
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)
“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.”
— Horses of September 11th; Tuesday’s Horse; Sept. 11, 2012
— War horses: Remembering the millions who fought and died in human battles; Tuesday’s Horse; May 28, 2012