Arlington's horsemen not left in the cold

It was only appropriate that on one of Washington, D.C.’s coldest mornings on record, The American Legion should help equip a distinct group of chilly servicemembers with some very welcome cold-weather gear.

Late on the windy, 7-degree morning of Jan. 7, troops of the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry Regiment (the Old Guard) stood at attention inside a barely heated, Fort Myer, Va. horse barn as their commander, Col. James Markert, and Legion Legislative Commission chairman Brett Reistad exchanged greetings. The two men were marking the gifting of new outerwear by the Legion and clothing manufacturer Carhartt, Inc. to the Old Guard’s distinguished Caisson Platoon. This is the platoon whose horse-drawn, casket-bearing artillery wagons render funeral honors at nearby Arlington National Cemetery.

The Caisson Platoon soldiers’ duties include caring for their horses – beginning with a 4:00 a.m. daily feeding – as well as polishing and preserving the tack and other equipment  used in honoring the fallen at Arlington. The same troops ride the ceremonial horses in the funeral processions. As one can imagine, their service-issued barn clothing sees plenty of wear.

Not long ago, a self-employed software consultant and longtime volunteer troop supporter named Leta Carruth noted that the horse caretakers’ cold weather jackets were getting a bit threadbare and appealed to the Michigan-based Carhartt company, which “happily agreed”  to replace the troops’ worn gear with new articles, including jackets, shirts and undershirts. The donation was facilitated through the Legion with the “great assistance," says Carruth, of the Legion’s resident blogger, Mark Seavey.

Carruth, who calls the Caisson Platoon’s horse barns her “second home”, attended the brief ceremony,  then retreated to the platoon’s horseshoe fitting room for a warming cup of coffee and a friendly chat with its resident farriers.

“This has been a good day,” she declared.  Legislative chairman Reistad, a former Old Guardsman himself, agreed.