SANTA ANA (AP) – Southern California Marines have fond memories of a scrawny mare called Reckless, who served in the Korean War and earned two Purple Hearts, taking shrapnel and saving soldiers like other American war heroes.
The Orange County Register reports the horse was honored with a monument Friday at Virginia’s National Museum of the Marine Corps in time to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the war’s end.
The horse earned the rank of Staff Sgt. after being purchased from a local boy for $250 to help carry 115-pound anti-tank rifles and their 24-pound shells.
Reckless carried ammunition to the front lines and saved Marines’ lives. Marines fed the horse Coca-Cola from their helmets and threw their flak jackets over her during the war.
She earned her stripes, which were pinned to her horse blanket, after the battle for Vegas Hill, a firefight that raged for three days.
Retired Sgt. Harold Wadley, 79, said the chaos felt like the sky was falling on him and the terror of war was thick in the air when he saw Reckless charging through the smoke.
“Going up the ridge, in and out of view, was this little mare. I tell you, her silhouette in all the smoke – I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I thought, ‘Good grief. It’s Reckless!'” Wadley told the Register.
That day, Reckless made 51 trips up and down the hill, carrying four tons of shells to the front lines, and carrying wounded and dead Marines down from the battlefield.
At one time, she shielded four Marines on the trail. She was wounded by shrapnel not once, but twice that day.
The legend of Reckless spread, earning her a place among other four-legged legends like Lassie and Rin Tin Tin. But with time, that legend faded.
When Robin Hutton, 58, of Ventura County visited the place where Reckless had been buried at Camp Pendleton she found the area had since been built over and vowed to preserve the memory of the most decorated horse in Marine Corps history.
She wrote a book about Reckless the war horse and hopes to see a movie made. She ran ads in “Leatherneck” magazine and scoured bulletin boards for Marines who may have known the horse to gather war stories.
Hutton raised $45,000 and borrowed $55,000 and convinced the National Museum of the Marine Corps, near Quantico, Va., to install the monument.
On Friday, she watched the dedication with more than 3,000 Marines and Korean War veterans.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.