MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. --
The Semper Fidelis Memorial Park at the National Museum of the Marine Corps is peopled with the likenesses of Marine heroes and icons throughout history, but its newest statue is the first to honor the valor of a four-legged Marine.
Staff Sgt. Reckless, a small Mongolian mare with the 75 mm Recoilless Rifle Platoon of the 5th Marines, earned her claim to fame during the battle for Outpost Vegas in late March, 1953, when, in one day, she made 51 trips from the ammunition supply point to the firing sites, carrying ammunition to the Marines and bringing back the wounded, most of the time unaccompanied and under heavy fire.
Speaking to a crowd at the statue’s unveiling on July 26, 2013, retired Sgt. Harold Wadley, who served at the outpost with Reckless, said, “She knew where her Marines were and she was locked in to deliver that ammunition to each of those guns.”
Wadley recalled an exchange of fire so intense that incoming and returning fire sometimes collided in midair, with enemy rounds exploding at a rate of about 500 per minute. He said he could hardly believe his eyes when he saw Reckless scrambling back and forth through this deadly hail, making one trip after another. Wounded twice, the horse kept up her pace.
“Surely, an angel had to have been riding that mare,” he said. “Winston Churchill once said, ‘If you find yourself going through hell, don’t slow down.’ Well, Reckless never slowed down.”
It’s estimated that the horse traveled more than 35 miles through open rice paddies and up and down mountains to carry more than 9,000 pounds of ammunition that day.
Born at a racetrack in Seoul in 1948, Reckless was purchased by a lieutenant with the Recoilless Rifle Platoon five months before the battle for Outpost Vegas. She quickly befriended Gunnery Sgt. Joe Latham, who taught her to crawl under barbed wire, lay flat under fire and run for the bunker in the case of enemy artillery.
She earned a reputation not only for bravery but also for her appetite. Though she had a preference for scrambled eggs, chocolate and beer, she was known to eat just about anything, including poker chips when she wanted attention.
“Gunny Latham said she still owed him 30 bucks for chips she’d eaten,” Wadley said.
Among those in attendance for the unveiling of Reckless’ statue were Gen. James F. Amos, commandant of the Marine Corps; Sgt. Maj. Micheal Barrett, sergeant major of the Marine Corps; and about a dozen veterans who served with the horse, either in Korea or, later, at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif.
Retired Lt. Gen. Robert Blackman, president and CEO of the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation, which supports the museum and its grounds, noted that the new statue, as well as the new Staff Sgt. Reckless display in the museum’s Korean War gallery, draw attention not only to the horse herself but also to all veterans of what is often called “the forgotten war.” And, he noted, they highlight the last time horses played an important role in warfare.
“We’re here to honor a forgotten hero from a forgotten war,” said Linda Hutton, president of Angels without Wings Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping the disadvantaged and honoring those who help others.
Through Angels without Wings, Hutton created the Staff Sgt. Reckless Memorial Fund to raise money for the statue.
To the Korean War veterans she said, “You are an inspiration to me and to all of us, and we’re grateful not only for your service to this country but also for your incredible love of this horse.”
Thanking the team of volunteers that worked with her, she called the completed statue “stunning. You think the horse is going to leap right off the hill there. It is breathtaking.”
Also on hand for the statue’s unveiling was its creator, artist Jocelyn Russell, who noted the hundreds of group emails she’d exchanged with Wadley and other members of “Team Reckless” over the last two years to pin down the details of Reckless’ ill-fitting tack, the size of the canisters she carried, and her height, weight and favorite beer. Immortalizing the horse was no easy task, she said.
“After all, she was a Marine, and I had no more room for error than she did,” Russell said.
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