New recognition for mighty war horse Reckless

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The larger-than-life statue of Sergeant Reckless is being unveiled at the Kentucky Horse Park later this month,
The larger-than-life statue of Sergeant Reckless is being unveiled at the Kentucky Horse Park later this month.

A statue commemorating the heroic Korean war horse Sergeant Reckless is to be unveiled at the Kentucky Horse Park on May 12.

Sergeant Reckless during the Korean war.
Sgt. Reckless during the Korean war.

Sergeant Reckless, a small Mongolian-bred mare with a racing background in her native country, became a national hero in 1953 after she was purchased at the age of five for $US250 – from a young Korean boy who needed money to buy his sister an artificial limb – by US Marines during the Korean War to carry ammunition for the 75mm Recoilless Rifle Platoon.

During the Battle of Outpost Vegas in March 1953, she made 51 trips up to the gun sites – most of the time by herself – and carried more than 9000 pounds of ammunition on her back. Wounded twice, she never stopped. She also evacuated wounded and dead from the battlefield, and quickly earned the love and respect of all the Marines who served with her.

The dedication of the larger-than-life, 1000-pound statue follows a more than two-year effort by Marine Corps veterans and private citizens to raise money to place the statue at the park.

Although Sgt. Reckless has been recognized with bronze statues at both Camp Pendleton (California) and the National Museum of the Marine Corps (Virginia), it was the vision of James E. “Ted” Bassett III, a Marine Corps combat veteran of World War II and former president and chairman of the Keeneland Association, that she be memorialized at the park.

“We are so honored to be custodians of this beautiful monument and monumental legacy of a horse small in stature, but big in courage,” said Laura Prewitt, executive director of the Kentucky Horse Park. “Sgt. Reckless epitomizes everything great about horses and our relationship with them.”

The dedication ceremony, featuring a Marine Corps color guard, will include an unveiling of the statue by four Korean War veterans who served with Reckless in Korea, plus guest speaker Sgt. Harold Wadley, USMC (Ret), who saw her in action during her most heroic battle. Additional speakers will include Ted Bassett; Robin Hutton, author of the book Sgt. Reckless: America’s War Horse; and Jocelyn Russell, sculptor of the monument. Music will be provided by Dixieland South Band, and an original theme song will be sung by Nashville country music artist, Templeton Thompson.

In the 1990s Sgt. Reckless was named by Life magazine among America’s top 100 heroes.

She was trained to step over communication cables, get down when there was incoming fire and to ignore the sounds of battle. She was wounded twice, but that did not stop her.

Sergeant Reckless was promoted to Staff Sergeant Reckless in 1959 in honour of her war efforts, and she returned to the United States to live out her days at Camp Pendleton. She died in 1968.

Reckless, who received two Purple Hearts, was a colorful character in her own right, and would hang out around the mess hall and tents when not carrying ammunition or soldiers.

She was a fan of beer, pickles and pancakes.

The Sgt. Reckless statue unveiling and dedication takes place on Saturday, May 12, at 1pm. The US Marine Corp Museum will have educational outreach available in conjunction with the dedication. Interactive displays will be set up on Saturday and Sunday, May 12-13, 9am-5pm, near the statue.

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