by Becky Turner

Every year Kindred Hospital – North Florida recognizes the men and women and their families who have served and sacrificed for our great country.
This year we are celebrating freedom and all who provide it so we are recognizing military animals who have served throughout the centuries.   Many and various animals have been employed to support troops in wars and campaigns.  From the pigeon to the elephant, from camels that were used in the arid desert, to cats who served as mascots and rodent catchers on ships, to reindeer that were used as pack animals, they all played a vital role in every region of the world in the cause of human freedom.
Sergeant Stubby was the most decorated war dog in World War I and the only dog to be promoted to sergeant through combat.  This Boston Bull Terrier was highly decorated for his participation in 17 engagements and was wounded twice in battle.

One of France’s homing pigeons, named Cher Ami, was awarded the French “Croix de Guerre with Palm” for heroic service delivering 12 important messages during the Battle of Verdun. Elephants and other circus and zoo animals were requisitioned for Army use when other beasts of burden became scarce in Europe. Rudder is currently serving at the Destin Coast Guard station in the Florida Panhandle.  Although a morale booster for seamen and visitors, he also can rescue dummies from the water and knows port from starboard.

Reckless was a small horse that served honorably during the Korean War.  In one day alone she made 51 trips through open rice paddies and up steep mountains by herself 95% of the time.  She carried 386 rounds of ammunition (that’s over 9,000 pounds or almost 5 tons) while walking over 35 miles with enemy fire coming in at the rate of 500 rounds per minute.  Although wounded twice, she didn’t let that stop her.  She would often carry wounded soldiers down the mountain to safety, unload them, getting reloaded with ammo and then would go back up to the fighting.  Reckless was promoted to Staff Sergeant and her fellow Marines agreed that there had never been a horse like Reckless.  After all, she wasn’t a horse – she was a Marine!   As we honor all of our veterans, we honor those were served, sacrificed and sometimes paid the ultimate price.  Although exact figures are hard to come by, it is estimated that 8 million horses and mules died during World War I.  Our military animals did their duty but they had no voice and they had no choice.
However, their contributions, like their human counterparts, must never be forgotten.

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