5 Veterans to Thank this Veteran’s Day

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Today we remember the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month and the armistice agreement which essentially ended World War I. The horrors of WWI were so brutal and bloody that humanity could not imagine ever going to war again. Many hoped that it would indeed live up to the title of “The War to End All Wars.” Yet this would not be. As humanity churned out more war machine in the decades to come, we began to see a need for a day that would honor all veterans. We took the 11th day of the 11th month in hopes that it would draw our consciousness back to the hope our ancestors held for a world without conflict, a world without war.

On this day, our nation thanks veterans with our words and parades and free stuff. The kindness of these gestures is not lost on those of us who have served. Yet, I am hearing more and more from veterans of our most recent wars (oral historians talk to every veteran, every chance they get) that they cringe at hearing the words, “Thanks for your service.” For those who haven’t served this may seem like they are ungrateful. After all, what can those who have never served do to show their gratitude? However, it is not a lack of graciousness they are feeling, it is the opposite, a deeply abiding humility, that causes them to feel the way they do. Many realize that their sacrifices, no matter how great, can never compare to the men who were spit on when they returned home, or the ones who are left with scars that cannot be seen, or even more… the ones who never returned home at all.

Many may wonder who these nameless, faceless, heroes are and what we as a nation can do to make it right for them. Many of the vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan would simply say, “Live your life and enjoy the gift of freedom you’ve been given.” I however believe that it never hurts to learn our history and honor the stories, when we can, of the nameless and faceless. Remember them and their families in your prayers. Pause and think of them on this day and every other day throughout the year. Refuse to let their memory die.

Now you might be asking, “How can I remember someone I don’t even know?” An easy way to start is by talking to people. Hear their stories. The next time you see a veteran wearing an “I served in ___” ball-cap, stop what you’re doing and say hello. Strike up a conversation. Ask them what they did, who they are, what they love. Genuinely care for them with your interest. I realize this might not happen today so in the meanwhile, I want to give you some stories to ponder. Below are 5 veterans whom you may not already know. Part of the nameless and faceless to many. Think on them with gratitude and as my young veteran friends would tell you, “honor them by living the best life you can live.” My eternal gratitude is extended to them, and many more, but in no particular order….

Montford

The Montford Point Marines

During WWII FDR, in a somewhat feeble attempt, worked towards integration of the races in the U.S. military. This was by no means an attempt to end desegregation however as African American men and women served in separate facilities and units. This unit of Marines was not allowed to take basic training at the regular training facilities and were instead, segregated to train in Montford Point S.C. This narrow strip of swamp land housed the Marines who would go on to heroically serve during the major battles of WWII. The only other Marines relegated to Montford Point were the canine units, the Doberman and handlers who would save countless lives on Iwo Jima, and the various bloody battlefields of the Aleutians. Even though the handlers and veterinarians were white, they were considered just as “dirty” as the “Negroes” and therefore sent to that same dismal piece of dirt.

york

Sgt. Alvin C. York

Sgt. York grew up in a poor farming community in the hills of Tennessee. He was devoutly faithful and believe it a sin to take the life of any man. When drafted during WWI, Alvin applied for conscientious-objector status but was denied. His commanders had seen his expert skills as a marksman and had convinced him that his skills were a gift from God that must be utilized for His glory. In May of 1918, York’s unit, the 82nd Infantry Division, arrived on the western front. York quickly made a name for himself and became a corporal. In October of that year, York was leading a platoon in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive when they came under heavy fire. York had asked God to help him so that he might defeat the Germans without taking many casualties. He prayed for God’s guidance as they came under fire and with help of his small unit (17 men), they captured 90 German soldiers and took them as prisoners. While transporting these prisoners, the men managed to capture another 42 Germans. It is believed that York killed 20 enemy combatants that day but he was most proud of the lives he took by surrender. Sgt. York was awarded the Medal of Honor when he returned home and was offered celebrity status to endorse several business ventures. The humble servant of Christ turned down those offers for fame and fortune opting instead for a quiet life with his wife Gracie on their Tennessee farm. Alvin York spent the rest of his life, even throughout The Great Depression, feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless.

Sgt. Reckless

Sgt. Reckless

This tiny Korean pony became the most decorated War Horse in Marine Corps history by serving diligently alongside her beloved Marines. During the Battle of Outpost Vegas, Reckless, under fire and injured, made over 100 trips to deliver wounded and munitions to Marines scattered across the hill. She bravely went alone and returned, time and time again, to her beloved handler Lt. Pederson. She retired back to America at the end of the Korean War and gave the Marines three lovely foals, “Fearless”, “Dauntless”, and “Chesty”, to carry on her legacy. Her favorite pastime in her retirement was drinking beer with her Marines.

NARA-542191-WASP-pilot

Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP)

Imagine my surprise when I learned recently that my husband’s grandmother was one these roughly 1000 ladies! These ladies flew aircraft during WWII from manufacturer to forward operating bases. With the desperate need for serviceable aircraft in theater, America’s women came together to rapidly deliver them. Often these aircraft were experimental and hadn’t received many flying hours. It was an incredibly perilous undertaking for these women, without a lot of training, to step into the cockpit and fly an untested aircraft. Officially their war efforts were not recognized until 1977 when they were granted veteran status.

Ever Vigilant. Ever Loyal.

Ever Vigilant. Ever Loyal.

The Men and Dogs of 8125th Sentry Dog Detachment Korea

These brave warriors are the subjects of my upcoming book, The Dog Don’t Miss: Silent Sentries of the Korean War. Between 80 and 100 men served with this unit in Korea. Serving alongside them, roughly 60 dogs stood watch in the darkest hours of the war. The men and the world had been told that the dogs would return to Camp Carson Colorado for retirement at the end of their service but this was never truly the Army’s intent. Forced to say good-bye to the dogs they loved, the men returned to a hardened and uncaring world. Today they grieve their losses largely alone. Only the brothers that still remain can understand the shared grief and loss of this incredible unit.

 

 


5 Reasons You SHOULD Write That Book

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On the eve of getting my first book published, I have become very reflective on what it means to be a writer and not just any kind of writer… a writer of books. It is a process which is completely different than other writing genres and it has its own pitfalls, as well as its own rewards. I have been working on writing and publishing “a book” for about 8 years now (actually a short time in the book writing game). Prior to actively “writing,” I was thinking about writing and prior to thinking about writing, I was telling stories. This brings me to my point. Being a writer isn’t so much about living the writer lifestyle (although it would be cool to sit in a water-closet in Paris with your type-writer, day in and day out, drinking red wine and smoking cigarettes, like Hemingway) as it is about having a story to tell. Not just any old story but, a story that is bursting forth… a story you are desperate to expel from your mind and put on paper.

When I tell people I am an “author” (just recently changed my title from “writer” to “author”) of books, I almost always get the same response. “I have always wanted to write a book!” Then people usually follow with, “That is so cool.” These remarks always send my mind churning. It’s almost as if people see authors as members of an ultra-exclusive club with secret “writery” handshakes and rituals. Of course I recognize that they are telling me they appreciate the work that goes into writing a book and I am always grateful to hear that BUT I also feel like people believe that I have, somehow, done a heroic feat they could never do! The truth is, there are plenty of tasks that others have completed which I never have or probably ever will. If you asked them how they did it, I can almost guarantee their answer would be, “I just kept plugging along, working constantly until I got it.” Head down. Nose to the old grindstone.

I usually tell people who express an interest in writing a book the same thing… get to writing, you can do it. They honestly don’t believe me. So my thought is this. In this more succinct yet explanatory format, I am going to tell you why you SHOULD write that book! I have noticed a rising popularity in making lists on blog posts lately so… I think this format might work best… whatever it takes, to get you to believe me. Here it goes; the top 5 reasons why you should write that book.

5. The world needs more books. The world is so hurried these days. Blog posts and lists abound (haha). Only in a book can people look at the various angles of an issue, or escape to a different world. Sure it’s enjoyable to sit and peruse Facebook while you drink your coffee but, sitting to drink your coffee over a good book… well that’s a vacation. Lengthy explorations of ideas in book form are becoming a lost art. If you have ever thought about contributing a book to this world, then you definitely should!

4. You have the time. I know we are all going 90 different directions all at once. I know you have the kids and the groceries and the what-nots. I have those too. However, this story has been bumping around in your head all these years. It is that very same story you can’t get out of your mind. That story is already taking up space and time. We make time for the things that are important to us and obviously that story is important to you! Write it down. Even if you only have 30 minutes of spare time: set a timer, get a pen, and write. Writing 30 minutes a day for a year will probably yield one really killer rough draft. Just do it.

3. You were created by a creator God. God created the world and He created you in His image. Therefore you are, like Him, a creator. Create something. He obviously put that book on your heart and probably… just probably… that’s the thing He wants you to create.

2. The world needs heroes. By heroes, I don’t mean reality TV stars and overnight celebrity sensations. I mean in-depth characters created, explored, examined, and expounded upon in books. Books take time to develop the complexities of life. Your character, the one in that book in your mind, can inspire people. People need more inspiration in a hard world. If you can give that then please, make it happen. Don’t keep it to yourself!

1. It’s your legacy. Ideas expressed in books live on. Ideas kept in your head, die with you. Who knows whose life could be forever changed by an idea they read in your book? The printed word is powerful. Leave it for future generations. ALSO… when you publish a book… you get your own ISBN number! That legacy is yours to keep and no one will ever take that away.

Happy composing.


The Canine Heroes of Vietnam

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Image Courtesy of The US Quatermaster Museum, Ft. Lee VA.

Image Courtesy of The US Quatermaster Museum, Ft. Lee VA.

This image breaks my heart and makes it sing, all at the same time.

Often, writing the history of “war dogs” in America is personally difficult. The stories haven’t always had happy endings and when it comes to dogs— I have a hard time swallowing anything other than happy. After all, dogs are our most loyal and loving companions. To know their unfailing love is to have a taste of heaven here on Earth. And soldiers— their often selfless sacrificial love, is godly too. When thinking of the two serving together in war, it is heart-wrenching to know that many never made it home. Many laid down their lives for me. I am truly unworthy.

One of the most difficult stories to read and to tell, is the story of the war dogs of Vietnam. The bond between the dogs and handlers during that war (I discovered after interviewing many veterans) was inexplicably beautiful, transcending our understanding of the human/dog relationship. Roughly 4,000 dogs served in that war and it is conservatively estimated they saved over 10,000 lives. More than that though, many handlers would say the dogs they handled saved their souls through unconditional love and security. Moreover, the dogs asked for nothing but companionship in return. Many veterans say their dog brought them closer to God.

I love everything about the photo above. It illustrates pure love and joy in the midst of malice and war. It shows that dogs love us unconditionally, regardless of our skin color, our religion, our innate ability to make the wrong choices, and our proclivity to make war. Still, looking at this photo I know that dog never made it home. The dogs of Vietnam, designated as nothing more than equipment, were simply abandoned by Washington bureaucrats at the end of the war. Not by the handlers, but by the folks who fought the war from behind a desk. Perhaps those young men in the photo didn’t come home either. If they did, they were most certainly met with anger or at least apathy from their fellow Americans. Truly almost everything about that war was tragic BUT— that bond. That bond, soldier and dog united, was eternal. It can never be taken from those men and most, I believe, would say they were better people for having had it.

In honor of those men and dogs and that beautiful bond they shared, I strive to remember them everyday. I am putting this photo on my bulletin board so that I can think of them every time I pass by.  It’s not enough— but for now it will have to do.

Do you have a soldier or a dog that deserves to be remembered everyday? If you don’t mind— share their names, and I will write that name on my heart too.

 


Hearts and Minds of Chengdu China

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The George Washington Fan Club

The George Washington Fan Club

Last year, in the month of October, I was in Chengdu China: the heart of the Sichuan Province. It was about as exotic a world as one could imagine, especially for a little ol’ southern girl like me. Chengdu is for the most part “unwesternized,” (knowing full well that’s not really a word but, you get the drift.) It was strange and engaging, thrilling and enlightening, educational and oddly… homey. I stood out like a sore thumb and yet, the faces which greeted me in shops, restaurants, and streets were, incredibly welcoming. I felt at ease there which seemed strange to me because I knew that during the height of the Cultural Revolution, my experience might not have been the same. The time of western expulsion from China was a relatively short time ago. However, the economic freedoms of modern-day China have allowed for a less xenophobic atmosphere and western faces are not only greeted without suspicion but are also are in fact warmly engaged.

It seems that everywhere I went in China people would smile and wave at me. Often, as schoolchildren in China learn English at a very young age, people wanted to engage in conversations with me to practice speaking English. I saw lots of families jockeying their children towards me for a chance to have an English conversation with a native speaker.This was the case with the little boy in the picture above.

One day in Chengdu, I was hanging out at a clothing store with my Chinese host (who spoke eloquent English as well), chatting with some teenage girls who worked in the store. I had glanced towards the door of the shop, people-watching as bodies filed past, when I saw this little boy. His parents and grandparents were pushing him toward the store and eying me with great interest and smiling faces, ( This is an unintended effect of China’s One-Child Policy…. every child has an entourage of adults, adoringly attending to their every need.) As I looked at the boy he seemed happy to oblige his family’s request: a request I didn’t yet understand. His face looked studied as he conspicuously formed the phrasing of his “English-conversation” in his mind. My host spoke with the boy’s mom and then explained to me that he was hoping to practice his English with me. Further, I could be assured that his English was quite excellent… I wouldn’t be disappointed. I looked up at the boy’s family who were all nodding their heads and smiling eager grins. I looked down at the boy, now standing only inches from me, and smiled.

“Hello” I said.

“Hello,” he returned. “How are you this morning?” he asked.

It was evening.

The boy looked at me and appeared to be thrilled. I was thrilled too.

“What is your favorite food?” he asked me.

I racked my brain. I guess I hadn’t really considered such a complex questions. I like so many foods. I was over-thinking.

“My favorite food is cheeseburgers and french fries!” the boy said.

I laughed knowing this was the standard answer I was supposed to give, but neglected to pick up on the ques. I wondered if he had actually ever had a real cheeseburger and fries. Probably McDonalds, as they are all over China, but Chinese McDonalds is a little lacking in the translation.

The boy and I continued our conversation as we sat on some sofas in the middle of the store. It wasn’t long before we seemed like old friends. The boy looked at my host who had become our Chinese-English translator and asked a question which made him laugh. My host looked at me and said, “He is wondering if he can see some American money…” I laughed and said, “I have some he can see and have!”

Funny how the Lord gives you windows and opportunities. As I dug out a fresh, crisp dollar bill, I realized that with this simple gesture, I had the opportunity to make a lasting impression on China, through one child, about Americans. Suddenly I felt a little bogged down in the weight of the situation. As I handed the boy his new dollar, I pointed out a phrase written on American money, “In God we trust.” I asked him if he knew what “trusting God” really meant. He shook his head no.

“It means we believe that the one God of heaven will take care of us.”

The boy nodded seriously in agreement. Then he pointed to the face on the bill asking,

“Who is this?!”

In my best attempt to surmise all of American history in one brief statement, I looked at him and said,

  “That is George Washington. He is the great father of our country.”

The boy rubbed old George’s impression over and over, staring intensely at the bill. I wondered if it had all been too much. Maybe I had waxed a bit TOO philosophical. Then with the sweetest look of recognition and joy, the boy looked me in the eyes and said,

“Oh! Your George Washington is a very handsome and smart man!”

In that moment I realized that Richard Nixon’s visit to the wall could never compare to the diplomacy that little boy and I worked out, sitting together in a Chengdu clothing store. That connection between two people, the shared look of understanding, the sincere desire to hear one another out, could never be taken away from humanity. Political borders are pointless. God created us to reach out and be curious. He created us to connect. I don’t know if I made that everlasting connection with the boy in the shop, but I do know he made that connection in me. I hope he lives a happy life. I hope he has a desire to seek God’s will for his life from our conversation. I hope he thinks of Americans fondly. I will never forget him and will pray for him often.

Have you ever made a life-changing, yet seemingly random, connection with someone? I would love to hear all about it.


The Piebald Buck

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Not My Piebald, Just A Piebald Like Him.

“As the deer pants for streams of water,

so my soul pants for you, my God.”

Psalm 42:1

     I pulled into the parking area in the middle of the afternoon, turned off the car, and quickly hopped out. The day was clear and cool. It was the perfect setting for clearer thoughts. A jog always pushed away the fog and gave me an opportunity to walk closer with God. This jog was an opportunity to ask Him some questions I desperately needed to ask, and to finely tune my ears for his answers. I usually jog with music, and cant go without it. Today, however, as I briskly closed the door, I didn’t give the ipod a second thought. This was not a conscious decision on my part. Just a stir of a whisper, which my mind had yet to register.

     My little three mile jog is a peaceful sanctuary in the city: a narrow road flanked on either side by sprawling southern manses and rolling Angus-studded pastures. It’s a pretty popular jogging path, and usually my idea to haunt it is shared by at least ten other people at any given time. That day however, I was alone and it was quiet. I wondered if it was always this serene. Perhaps my ear-buds distracted from a deeper contemplation?

   My friend Denny had been sick for a relatively short time. The cancer swept in and rolled over all of us like a freight train. On the day we learned that the chemo had not worked, we made a ring around him and touched him, this tight group of friends that loved him like we owned him. We were so desperate to keep him here. Our hope was in the Lord certainly, and we knew that if we were faithful, and we believed, that the Lord could perform His miracle. We asked for healing.We believed he would be healed.

     Jogging, I tried to open my mind to God’s mysteries. As I inhaled, I envisioned God’s answer filling my heart. I asked God with every step. “Will he be healed?” I couldn’t detect an answer. I pounded the ground harder, demanding, “God, will he be healed?” My knees were aching, beckoning me to stop. I asked more ferociously still, “Jesus, are you going to take him or will you heal him?!” Suddenly, my knees buckled. I stopped.

     In the middle of my pleading, and my stomping pace, I had forgotten to look around. In that moment, I noticed a stillness. I noticed the warmth of the sun on my shoulders. I noticed the vibrancy of green in the grass. Then, I heard a rustling. Oddly, I wasn’t afraid, in spite of being totally alone and miles from home. I heard a snort. I looked up the hill, in the pasture next to me, and I saw where the sound had come from.

     He was obviously a young buck, small with barely four points.I didn’t want to move for fear that he would startle and run away. I longed for time to stand still. He walked towards me and kept coming. I felt that surely he hadn’t seen me or heard me, then I wondered how that could be possible. I had, only seconds before been an aggressive, noisy, blur of motion and frustration. Still he moved towards me and I began to wonder if he would just plow me right over. Nope. He stopped, just a few feet away. He looked at me and I looked at him. Then I saw his markings. He was glorious. His white and mottled blocks of color were shining as the sun glinted off of him. He reminded me of the most beautiful painted pony I had ever seen.

     We looked at one another for a time, all too brief. It seemed to me that he just came out of the shadows for attention, and it was obviously my attention he sought. However, just as quickly as he sought me, he retreated. I smiled realizing I had just seen something so rare that most eyes would never witness: a piebald buck, a recessive gene, less than .1% of the population would throw this mutation. My thoughts returned to Denny who had dedicated his life to studying Wildlife Biology. I needed to run back to the car so I could call him and tell him. As I turned to run, God answered me. Denny would be healed, but not in the way I asked for it to be done. In that moment, I knew Denny was going to die.

     In my selfish desire to keep Denny here with me, I had neglected to see that he was already gone. His pain had been so severe that he had already turned towards heaven. I just didn’t want to see it. Like the deer panting for cool streams of water, his soul was longing to be with his maker. The cancer had wrecked Denny’s body, and his light had long departed, by the time I met the young buck. A week after my chance encounter, Denny went home. I know that the Lord gave me a vision of Denny’s healing in that piebald buck. Denny is now beautiful, transformed, and rare. Once again, God’s vision was so much better than my own. Where I imagined healing to look like what I had always seen, my idea of a whitetail buck, God had seen it transformed and different, beautiful beyond my imagination. Now I can look forward to the day I see Denny again, like I saw that piebald stag, happy, peaceful, and  whole.


Sweet Surprise

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My Friend the Marine.

My Friend the Marine.

As I was perusing the National Museum of the Marine Corps, I spotted a national treasure. This treasure was not behind glass or even a velvet rope. She was the most beautiful, living-breathing, Marine in the building. In a sea of grey hair tucked under the trademark red cap, there was a head like the others, yet different. She was wearing green but she had “the look” none-the-less. I knew I was looking at something extraordinary.

My husband had pointed her out from the balcony and he said, “I wonder what her story is?” I faced a sizable crowd but I knew talking to her would be worth pushing through it. When I finally reached her she was already preparing to leave, neatly folding her program, stowing it away in her tidy white bag.

“Excuse me Maam!” I must have sounded a bit panicked. I was afraid she would get shuffled into the crowd and be lost to me forever. I reached out and touched her arm. She smiled politely but then looked around as if to say, “Do you mean me Maam?” Rats! My Air Force was showing. “This is a Marine,” I thought… “What if she is enlisted and I just insulted her with my formality?” She smiled more. Whew, I was off the hook!

“Sorry to stop you,” I said, “but I was curious about your cap.” Her daughter stood nearby cautiously watching over her sweet mother. The daughter said, “You must be a veteran. I am too. Army.” “Oh just Air Force,” I replied with a sheepish smile.Before I could turn back to the mother I felt her reach up and grab my hand. “Thank you for your service,” she said to me. I could have cried. Swallowed very hard. “I chose to wear the green over the red to just be a little different. I’m a Marine.”

As we spoke she sat back down and said, “Let me show you something.” She pulled out a neat wallet from her tidy white bag and opened it just one fold. In the space where you might put your driver’s license or pictures of the kids, she had a beautifully colorized, circa 1952, photo of the most handsome couple you could lay eyes on. “This is me and my brother. We joined up together for Korea.” A female Korean War veteran. Now I was crying and there was no holding it back. “You are so gorgeous!” I truly meant it. She was, then and now, maybe one of the most beautiful women I had ever seen. She deflected. “My brother was a real grunt! He survived Korea and Vietnam. He’s still alive today.” I was star struck. She continued, “My Uncle survived WWII. He jumped into Normandy. Survived the Bulge. They took him as a POW. He lived through it!” What could I say, I was standing in the presence of heroes, layers upon layers of incredible heroes.

Her daughter said, “Mom, you don’t want to miss the unveiling. We should go.” This fine female Marine stood and smoothed out her handsomely pressed suit. “I am so grateful for your service!” Sincerely grateful. Moving into position I asked, “Can I have my picture taken with you?” She hesitated. “Go on Mom,” her daughter chided just a little. Quickly and easily, almost with cellular memory, she moved herself into the perfect position of nobility, honor, dignity. This is the pose of a US Marine. Then, as soon as the picture was over, she was on the move. On to the next. Semper Fi. I never learned her story, at least not the details of it.

I guess I learned all I really needed to know:

Character comes in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and packages. The good in this world is all around us, waiting on us to ask about the green cap on its goodly head. The great ones always deflect and defer. Most importantly, once a Marine always a Marine.

 


Remembering Reckless

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Veterans who served with the Mighty Reckless

Veterans who served with the Mighty Reckless


Today marks the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War. Often referred to as “The Forgotten War” the Korean War was a bitter and brutal conflict unlike any America had ever seen before, or maybe even since. Many heroic men and women sacrificed themselves to meet the threat of Communism head on. Conditions were severe. Temperatures ranged from sub-zero to scorching. The equipment, largely left over from WWII, was often unreliable and hard to come by. Korea was a nation of hungry and desperate people and American military members often felt that pain as well. Yet, in spite of incredible loss and hardship the American service men and women carried on. In short, they made the best of a hard situation.

Men and women were not the only service members to give their all. Dogs served valiantly in Korea. Horses too. Perhaps the best know of these four-legged heroes was a little Mongolian mare who had been purchased by an American Marine. He bought the former racehorse from a young Korean boy who needed the money more than he needed a horse. His sister had lost a leg in this hard fought war and he wanted to give her a new artificial one. For his family, the little mare was another mouth to feed. For the Marine who bought her…. She became invaluable.

Lt. Eric Pedersen saw great potential in the diminutive 13 hand mare. He paid the $250 dollar asking price and took her directly to his Marines for training. Sgt. Harold Wadley and other Marines worked tirelessly to turn the mare into a proper war horse. Her character quickly revealed to the Marines what her name should be. They named her “Reckless”.

During the pivotal 5 day Battle of Outpost Vegas in March of 1953, Reckless earned every bit of her name and her reputation. Reckless made 51 round trips during the battle, up and down the hills, carrying a total of 9,000 lbs of ammunition. She had traveled, by fighting’s end,35 miles under heavy fire. Marines, in the midst of a firefight, would see her coming and would load the wounded on her back. She would carry them to safety and pick up a new load of ammunition. Throughout the fight, she was alone. She was wounded, shot twice, and never stopped. She cared for her beloved Marines and they in turn cared for her.

Reckless made the journey home after the war and received the official rank of her occupation… She was a US Marine. She also received several awards and commendations to include 2 Purple Hearts from the injuries she suffered in battle. Reckless had 3 foals after her return to the US and lived a life worthy of a true hero; all the sweet feed, beer, and eggs her heart desired. She passed on in 1968 and left a legacy of love and devotion that has not been forgotten.

On July 26th, 2013, Reckless was honored by the surviving veterans who served with her, by the entire Marine Corps, and by the world, with a beautiful statue of her likeness. The ceremony of the unveiling was tearful, joyful, and beautiful. Sgt. Harold Wadley, who had spent so much time training and desensitizing her, spoke about his “little blaze-faced mare” with great tenderness. He said, “Horses are great animals that naturally seek leaders who comfort their fears. I was honored to be there for her.” He spoke of his most profound memory of her and said, “The spirit of her loneliness and her loyalty, in spite of the danger,was something else to behold. Hurting. Determined. And alone. That’s the image I have imprinted in my head and heart forever.”

The men who served with Reckless are the greatest example of character. They gave her their all while doing the hardest task ever to be asked of any man. They were willing to sacrifice their lives and, incredibly, so was she. She is the very epitome of all that we love and admire in animals. Reckless is the very definition of loyalty. Today as I remember the end of that horrific war, I am thankful for the sacrifices of these greatest examples of humanity and I am in aww of Reckless’ example of unfailing devotion.