Story and Photos by Staff Sgt. Kelvin Ringold
FORT BELVOIR, Va.– As the official escort to the President of the United States and the nation’s premiere memorial affairs and ceremonial unit, Soldiers from the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) everyday mission is to honor those service members and who are no longer with us. Along with these Soldiers, the hardworking horses of the Caisson platoon are crucial to that same mission. After years of dedicated service, these horses are able to ride off into the sunset and find their forever home.
Soldiers from the Caisson Platoon, 3d U.S. Inf. Regt. (The Old Guard), gathered on December 18, 2016 at the Caisson stables at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, to finalize the adoption of one of their most seasoned horses.
Described as, “a great horse with a calm demeanor,” Surefire has supported The Old Guard Soldiers for 13 years, and has even been recognized for his efforts.
“Surefire is most well-known for serving in our Twilight Tattoo shows,” explained Cpt. Austin Hatch, Caisson Platoon Leader. “He even received an Army Achievement Medal from 4th Battalion after his last show.”
Like with any of these loyal, mission critical horses, finding them a great place to retire is a task the leaders take seriously.
“It’s extremely important to find our horses a good home after their service,” said Lt. Col. Jody Shouse, commander, 1st Battalion, 3d U.S. Inf. Regt. “They give a life of service to the military and deserve just as much as anyone to have a normal life afterwards.”
After the latest cycle of adoption applications were processed, that is when Michael and Marisa Murphy emerged as the proud new owners of Surefire.
This was Murphy’s first time applying to adopt one of the Caisson horses, but he has been a horse owner for many years, and the opportunity to own a Caisson horse was an opportunity he did not want to miss.
“What got me particularly interested in a Caisson horse is that I was actually with The Old Guard in Vietnam,” said Murphy. “When the opportunity arose to take a retiree it was something I really wanted to do [since] these horses have given years of service to our fallen.”
Since Murphy has a large farm with four other horses in Orange County, Virginia called Danton Farm, he wanted the opportunity to give a Caisson horse a place they could call home.
“I thought he would make a perfect addition to the herd,” added Murphy. “It will be a nice place for him to spend the rest of his life. I was happy to make this contribution for the horse, but also in a small way to the service.”
As another long-tenured Caisson horse finds a place to roam free after serving in The Old Guard, it’s a somber day for Caisson Soldiers, but one they are happy to see.
“We look at it as an honor to work with such a great animal,” said Staff Sgt. Jonathan English, Caisson Platoon. “It is bitter sweet to see him go but we know he has worked hard here. So, it is comforting to know he is going to live out the rest of his days being cared for and just getting to be a normal horse.”