On Sept. 13, at the Mount Pisgah Cemetery in Cripple Creek, a special ceremony was held for three men of the 10th Special Forces Group of Fort Carson, Colo., who lost their lives this past year. Their names have been added to the granite markers beneath the U.S. Army helicopter at the cemetery.
A twenty-one-gun salute was presented by the United States Air Force Honor Guard from Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs.
As part of the solemn ceremony, four Green Berets with the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) escorted the riderless horses; Achilles (black) and Anthem (white), both registered quarter horses with thoroughbred lines, owned by Ginger Patrick of Florissant.
The custom is believed to date back to the time of Genghis Khan, when a horse was sacrificed to serve the fallen warrior in the next world. The riderless horse later came to symbolize a warrior who would ride no more.
Through the years and in the United States, the riderless horse is part of the military honors given to an Army or Marine Corps officer was a colonel or above; this includes the President, by virtue of having been the country’s commander in chief and the Secretary of the Defense, having overseen the armed forces. Alexander Hamilton, former Secretary of the Treasury (1789-1795), was the first American to be given the honor.
Abraham Lincoln was the first president to receive this honor, and the horse was Old Bob. Black Jack was the name of the horse honoring President John F. Kennedy, and President Ronald Reagan was honored by the horse Sergeant York. The horses are saddled with tack that would be used by a Civil War Calvary Officer and a pair of boots facing backwards.
Achilles, a gelding, has “fought” with the 6th Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Cavalry reenactment group in the 150th anniversary series of the Civil War. He is also a pinned member of VFW Post 101 in Colorado Springs.
Anthem’s full registered name is National Anthem, named specifically for the job of honoring the fallen. He is a two-and-a-half-year-old stallion. “I named him, specifically for this job,” said Patrick.