Sergeant Reckless

I have a tale to tell you of a US Marine named “Reckless”, so named after the military slang for the recoilless (“reckless”) rifles employed by the unit Reckless was attached to, the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, in Korea.

Soon after her deployment, Reckless became known for her reckless courage in combat. She participated in very fierce fighting, was awarded two Purple Hearts and promoted to Sergeant.

Sergeant Reckless was a horse, a “Mongolian mare who was bred to be a racehorse, Ah-Chim-Hai, or Flame-of-the-Morning, belonged to a young boy named Kim-Huk-Moon…” There must have been something about Reckless’s personality to have inspired two such potent names. She lived up to them both.

While in combat, Platoon Sgt. Joseph Latham trained Reckless to step over barbed wire and communication lines, and to carry the heavy ammunition for the 115-pound M20 75 millimeter recoilless rifle employed by her unit. The M20’s backblast gave away the gunner’s position, so after no more than five shots, the gun had to be moved, or enemy fire would wipe out gun and gunner. That meant keeping the ammo back from the gun, so you didn’t have to worry about it being exploded by incoming fire. But the projectiles weighed about 22 pounds apiece. In the hilly Korean terrain, Marines could only carry at most three at a time, and they couldn’t make many trips before becoming exhausted.

Reckless wasn’t big, as horses go: 900 pounds and under 14 hands high, but she carried ten shells at a time, and she was able to keep going for hours at a time. Although she was led at first, she quickly became independent, and made the trips to and from the gun on her own! She often brought back a dead or wounded Marine strapped to her back. Keep in mind, Reckless did this while under fire.
When she was wounded, as related by Robin Hutton
the Marines stopped the blood flow, treated the wounds as best they could while in combat, and Reckless, of her own volition, immediately went back to work! Ms. Hutton, a devoted equestrian, was inspired to write a book about Reckless: “Sgt. Reckless: America’s War Horse”

Reckless was such a dedicated powerhouse that Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Geer, CO of the 2nd Battalion of the 5th Marine Division, wrote first a couple of articles about her for the Saturday Evening Post, and then a book, “Reckless: Pride of the Marines”. 

There are several things about this horse that made me laugh out loud, and Geer recorded one in his book: “I first heard of Reckless shortly after joining the 1st Marine Division in Korea in June of 1953 … Some of the tales I heard were difficult to believe …” During a brief R&R, “A carnival was organized … The profits from this venture were to go to Navy Relief. It was then that I first saw Reckless … Like any other Marine, she was enjoying a bottle of beer with her comrades. She was constantly the center of attraction and was fully aware of her importance. If she failed to receive the attention she felt her due, she would deliberately walk into a group of Marines and, in effect, enter the conversation. It was obvious the Marines loved her … Within a few days, it was back into combat, and Reckless, like her fellow Marines, went back to work.”

How can you not love an animal with such chutzpah? Such personality!

The vetstreet site, cited above, noted that Platoon Sergeant Latham, who trained Reckless, made certain she had a full menu of proper, nutritious horse food, but “it wasn’t long before Reckless betrayed her palate’s true desires. She soon became renowned about the camp for her insatiable appetite, chowing down treats like beer, scrambled eggs with pancakes and coffee, chocolate bars and pretty much anything offered to her.”

Reckless was a highly intelligent horse and a true Marine in every way. In her excellent book, “They Called Her Reckless”, Janet Barrett wrote, “In short order she was an integral member of the platoon, learning quickly to run into her bunker when incoming fire hit the camp, navigate the trails and hills on her own, and calmly accept the roar of the recoilless rifles at close range.”

Reckless went far beyond the call of duty in the intense Battle of Outpost Vegas. During the Chicom’s three-day attempt to push the Marines off Outpost Vegas, Reckless made fifty-one trips from ammo dump to front line, carrying more than 9,000 pounds of shells and bringing back dead and wounded. It is estimated that she covered 35 miles during those three days. On her own. She knew her job thoroughly and needed no human help or guidance. She moved so fast that she overworked one of the M20s – it overheated and had to be replaced!

vetstreet tells the end of the story: after a long retirement in which she gave birth to three colts and one filly, “Staff Sgt. Reckless succumbed to old age in 1968 and was buried with full military honors at Camp Pendleton. Today, she is remembered for her unwavering fidelity to her fellow Marines and the easy way she earned the affection of nearly every soldier who served with her.”

Two tributes have to be recorded:

Elizabeth McCall, equestrian journalist: “This prey animal had stepped out of what God made it and became another kind of being. Because when she was not only carrying ammunition up that hill in the midst of the horrible battle, she also brought the dead and the wounded back. This horse epitomized ‘leave no man behind‘.”

And Robin Hutton, the author of the book mentioned above, “Sgt. Reckless: America’s War Horse”, started a memorial website for Reckless: She wasn’t a horse – She was a Marine! Welcome to SGT. RECKLESS, A website dedicated to America’s greatest war horse hero

No one will ever convince me that animals don’t go to Heaven, or that they don’t have souls.

There’s one more thing to be said – to our human warriors: Jesus told His disciples that not even a sparrow falls to the ground without God being there, and He told them, “Don’t be afraid! You are worth more than many sparrows.”

Sergeant Reckless is remembered with love and respect long after she died, by many who never even saw her. Warriors, you are not forgotten, by your fellow Americans or more importantly, by God. He knows your name. We will be hearing your stories forever in Heaven. I hope every one of you chooses to go there. Talk to Jesus about that, if you haven’t already. He said, “There is no way I will ever reject anyone who comes to Me.”

But the time is getting short. Don’t put off that talk.

Have a blessed and safe RED Friday all.

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