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Sergeant Reckless and the Marines

November 10 marks the birthday of the United States Marine Corps. This branch has boasted the protection of America by land, air, and sea since 1775. Even President Ronald Reagan noted that, “Some people wonder all their lives if they’ve made a difference. The Marines don’t have that problem.” Just like the other branches of the US military, the Marines do their part to make sure we sleep peacefully at night.

However, we not only have to thank our two-legged Marine Corps service members, but also take off our hats to the four-legged ones as well.

Sergeant Reckless was a chestnut filly purchased by the 5th Marine Regiment at a South Korean stable. While Colonel Eustace Smoak was skeptical, he allowed Lieutenant Eric Pederson to purchase the filly for his platoon.

She was dubbed “Sergeant Reckless” as a play on the word “Recoiless” as she was in a Recoiless Rifle Platoon in Korea.

She became a pack horse for the 24 lb shells used for the recoiless rifles.

She was taught how to duck under fire, how to run for a bunker when hearing “Incoming”, and how to lie down when caught in barbed wire.

Sergeant Reckless became so well known to the troops that she would visit the different tents either falling asleep by the gas stoves or eating whatever the troops had on their plates. This included (but was not limited to) peanut butter sandwiches, mashed potatoes, chocolate, shredded wheat, and even $30 worth of poker chips from her caretaker! She would also drink beer and Coca Cola (although she was limited to two Coca Colas a day for health reasons).

She served with the 5th Marine Regiment for the duration of the war, and at its conclusion was promoted to Staff Sergeant. She was a highly decorated military equine earning two Purple Hearts, a Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, a Presidential Unit Citation with a Bronze Star, a National Defense Service Medal, a Korean Service Medal, a United Nations Korean Service Medal, a Navy Unit Commendation, a Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation, and even the French Fourrager which the 5th Marines had won during the Great War. She would display these awards proudly on her horse blanket.

When she arrived stateside, Reckless was the guest of honor at the Marine Corps Ball celebrating the Marine’s birthday. At this ball she was able to indulge in her favorite pastime of eating, whereas she consumed cake and the floral arrangements.

She remained in the care of the 5th Marines although she did not serve again in combat. Reckless gave birth to four foals in her retirement years, made several television appearances, and became the focus of the book Reckless: The Pride of the Marines. Later in life, Sergeant Reckless developed arthritis in her back causing her to slip and fall into a barbed wire fence. While being treated for her injuries, she quietly passed away.

Even though her death left a hole, her life left a legacy of quiet service, heroism, and loyalty that are the backbone of the Marine Corps. Happy Birthday Marines!

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