Every year, the third Saturday in May is recognized as Armed Forces Day here in the U.S. Although it might not receive as much pomp and circumstance as its more popular cousin, Memorial Day, it is still a day to give thanks for those Americans who serve or who have served and remember their contribution.
And that means every American, including our favorite four-legged friends.
America was built on the backs of horses, and it was on the backs of horses Americans defended themselves from those who sought to do them harm. The horse and the cavalry have been staples in the United States military since the Revolutionary War and have endured in some form or another until the end of World War II.
George Washington asked the Continental Congress to commission a light cavalry after witnessing his forces reactions to the intimidating British light cavalry. The congress obliged, promoting and re-forming militiaman Elijah Sheldon’s regiment into the 2nd Continental Light Dragoons in December 1777. As the first cavalry regiment in U.S. military history, Sheldon’s forces served across the northeast, most notably at the battles of Brandywine and Germantown in Pennsylvania, before the unit was discharged in November 1783
Cavalry units continued to play a role in American engagement during the War of 1812. Two battalions of more than 1,000 volunteer cavalrymen under the commanding officer and future Vice President Richard Mentor Johnson served in the Battle of the Thames, which saw the end of the Tecumseh Confederacy.
In 1833, Congress formed the U.S. Army’s first standing cavalry regiment, the First Regiment of Dragoons, as a way to keep the peace along trails of westward expansion. Divided into 10 companies, the First Dragoons served across the southern and western frontiers and in the Second Seminole War.
The First Dragoons, and later the Second Dragoons, continued to serve across the country in the Mexican-American War and the Civil War. It is still in existence today as the 1st Cavalry Regiment, albeit without the horses. As time has gone on, modern cavalry have adopted more conventional means of transportation, but their legacy lives on through tradition.
Last Saturday, the military finds other uses for the animals, which used to make up half of the cavalry, on the home front.
The horses of the Caisson Platoon of the 1st Battalion carried the remains of fallen soldiers and politicians to their final resting places in funeral processions across the country.
Other outside organizations use equine therapy practices to help veterans overcome PTSD and other PTSD-related illnesses.
Throughout the history of this great country, the horse has lifted us to new heights, taken us to new places and helped us defend our homes. It is just as indelible to this country as the men who rode them. We hope you celebrated Armed Forces Day accordingly this weekend.