- Written by Lynda Vital
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Spring had finally come for Horsefeathers Gang. All the horses were outside for turnout. The new green grass was delicious and the annual onslaught of flies had not yet arrived. “It’s beautiful weather for a picnic, or a parade or something,” remarked Poco. Big Red’s fuzzy ears perked right up at the mention of a parade. “I remember when we police horses used to march in the Memorial Day Parade in downtown Chicago!” he said. “It was very exciting.” Calvin was puzzled. “What, pray tell, is this day you call Memorial Day?” he asked.
Big Red told him that Memorial Day, the last Monday in May, marked the official beginning of summer. On that day people often go to the cemetery to plant flowers on the graves of their loved ones. It is a nice way of showing them they are missed. In particular, though, homage is paid to the veterans of war, the military members who have served in their country’s armed forces. Many towns have parades, where the old veterans march along with the younger troops, and people wave flags. They often display military equipment, too - tanks, cannons, etc. Lots of speeches are given, and people sing patriotic songs. And of course, there are always horses marching in the parade. It is a very nice holiday that makes everyone feel very grateful and happy.
“Wow, I bet being a soldier is exciting,” said Calvin. “Too bad horses can’t be in the military.” Ice chuckled a bit, and informed Calvin that horses could indeed be members of the armed forces. “Did you not see Cavalry horses when you were out West last year?” he asked. Calvin said, no, all the horses he ran with on his vacation were wild and free. “Well, many years ago, when our country was young, some of the great-grandparents of those wild and free horses were rounded up by the U.S. Army and trained to be cavalry horses,” Ice said. “I read about them in some of Kristi’s school books. The U.S. Cavalry grew a great deal after the Civil War, when their horses helped tame the Wild West. They were used in other wars, too.
Calvin thought that that was very interesting, but decided that he would NOT like to be a cavalry horse, as they probably had to have even more special training programs to go through than he did! “But I like learning about them. Do they still go to fight in wars today?” he asked. Ice replied that nowadays the horses have been replaced by heavy equipment and machinery. The last horse-mounted U.S. charge was made in the Philippines in World War II. Today the Cavalry Division keeps some horses for ceremonial purposes - like parades and good stuff like that. Calvin was still full of questions. “Are there any cavalry horses from the wars still alive?” he asked. Ice knew the answer to that one, too; he was a very well-read horse. “The last U.S. Cavalry horse , Chief, died in 1968 when he was 36 years old. He had been sold to the Army at the age of 8 and served faithfully for 8 years. He was known as a gentle, obedient steed, and enjoyed his retirement years in a lovely pasture. To honor the last surviving cavalry horse, Chief was given a military funeral with full honors. He was encased in a marble vault standing up as though to carry his last trooper.
“Well, I wish I could join the U.S. Cavalry , too, maybe as kind of a cheerleader. I don’t go in too much for the fighting part.” said Poco. Ice told the horses they could all go to the U.S. Cavalry website and join, and so could any human that so desired. The address is http://www.uscavalry.org/. There are pictures and stories about the cavalry days, and if you join you get to be called a Trooper!
“Let’s get Kristi to sign us all up,” said Big Red. “What a perfect way to celebrate Memorial Day!”
Kristi thought that was a great idea, so she signed up the gang and then decreed that there would be a small parade that very afternoon, starring all the new troopers from the Horsefeathers Gang. Volunteers brought red,white and blue ribbons, and a flag for each horse to carry. Of course there were lots of treats as well. Someone actually brought a bugle. Trooper Calvin had been chosen to lead the parade, and all the new Cavalry members marched proudly around the arena.