Army Old Guard horses help wounded warriors at Ft Myer, VA
October 19, 2009
By Bob Woodruff
World News Tonight With Charles Gibson (ABC), 6:30 PM
CHARLES GIBSON: Finally, at Arlington National Cemetery today, Army Specialist Stephen Mace was laid to rest. He was killed in Afghanistan this month. Mace’s funeral, like others at Arlington, was attended by the Army’s Caisson Platoon and those soldiers deal a lot with death. But so did they now have a new life-affirming mission.
Here’s Bob Woodruff.
BOB WOODRUFF: For more than 60 years, the Army’s Caisson Platoon has escorted America’s fallen to their final resting places in Arlington National Cemetery with honor and pride.
But now, the Old Guard is taking on a new role: helping to heal America’s wounded.
Some of these soldiers are just learning to walk again. Believe it or not, riding can help.
LARRY PENCE [Caisson Platoon Equine Assisted Programs]: It retrains those upper leg muscles to move the way you want them to move when you’re walking either with your normal natural legs or with a prosthetic.
WOODRUFF: The riders use pads, not saddles, to better feel how the horse moves.
PENCE: When a horse moves at the walk, their hip movement is the same as yours and mine. What we want them to do is get in sync with the movement of that horse.
WOODRUFF: The weekly sessions also help alleviate the pain associated with prosthetics. Mike Cain lost his leg to a roadside bomb in Iraq.
What does it do for you?
ARMY STAFF SGT. MIKE CAIN: It’s a huge core workout. You have to kind of keep yourself stable and balanced enough to stay on the horse.
WOODRUFF: And there are also emotional benefits.
Do you have any depression?
RETIRED ARMY SPC. VINCENT SHORT: Yes. It comes in waves.
WOODRUFF: Vincent Short suffered a traumatic brain injury in Iraq.
Does this help your depression?
SHORT: Oh, tremendously. This like actually keeps it at bay, believe it or not. It does because it’s an outlet.
MARY JO BECKMAN [Caisson Platoon Equine Assisted Programs]: The horses have done magic for them. They tell me that they look forward to coming out here to ride, that this is like makes their life bearable for them.
WOODRUFF: More than bearable.
SHORT: This right here is a great big confidence gain.
WOODRUFF: And it’s not just the wounded soldiers that benefit.
ARMY CPL. CHRISTOPHER LEONARD [Old Guard Caisson Platoon]: Every day we deal with the funerals and it can be difficult to mentally handle at times. So being able to work with wounded warriors in a way provides a mental release.
WOODRUFF: The Caisson Platoon has long honored America’s soldiers. Now they are helping them recover. Bob Woodruff, ABC News, Fort Myer.