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Courtesy photo

Gregory Wawrytko leading the black horse, Achilles, and Anthony Archer with the white horse, National Anthem, during the poignant pinning ceremony

COLORADO SPRINGS • VFW Post 101 in Colorado Springs commemorated its 101st Anniversary with the ceremonial pinning of two horses.

The horses, owned by Ginger Patrick of Florissant, were officially inducted in the VFW Post April 20 due to their involvement with veterans’ activities.

VFW Post 101, at 702 S. Tejon St., is the oldest post in Colorado Springs and originally was stationed in Old Colorado City until moving to its current location in 1969. The Post was chartered on April 20, 1920 under Commander James W. Gowdy and post was named for Lt. Marion L. Willis, who was killed in France during WWI while assigned to the 356th Infantry Division. Willis, a native of Kansas, moved to Colorado Springs sometime before the war. He is buried in Evergreen Cemetery.

Post 101 is the owner and caretaker of the Grand Army of the Republic area of Evergreen Cemetery. To this day, Post 101 carries on the tradition of connecting the veterans of Colorado Springs, past and present, providing a place where they can socialize, and providing essential services and advocacy to veterans in need and their families. Every Memorial Day, there is a ceremony at both the G.A.R. plot and Willis’ grave to commemorate fallen comrades.

On April 20, Gregory Wawrytko and Anthony Archer, dressed in Army dress blues, officially presented the newest equine members of VFW Post 101 and pinned them as official Riderless Horses.

The horses were approved under vote of the ruling body of the post membership and the commander of the post, U.S. Space Force Maj. Danielle Ryan. The horses were made official in a letter signed by Ryan on Nov. 1. They will appear in their first official capacity on Memorial Day at the Evergreen Cemetery ceremony, and to the public on Saturday, June 5 at the street celebration at VFW Post 101. The event will include the flying of all six flags of the uniformed services, a decorated stage, and post commander Ryan presiding. The white horse, National Anthem, will be under saddle and carrying the U.S. flag. Achilles, the black horse, will be posted and in hand of uniformed personnel.

Patrick served eight years in the Air Force, achieving the rank of staff sergeant, and subsequently joined the VFW in Springfield, Ohio. She joined Post 101 when she moved to Colorado in 2009. She has been involved with horses most of her life and started getting involved with Riderless Horse commemorations with her black mare Circling Raven in 2006.

After the untimely passing of her mare, she acquired Achilles in 2010. Achilles, a gelding, has “fought” with the 6th Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Cavalry reenactment group in the 150th anniversary series of the Civil War. He was named for Achilles, the hero of the Trojan War, the greatest of all the Greek warriors, and is the central character of Homer’s Iliad. 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 whose first foal was born the night before he was pinned. “I named him specifically for this job,” said Patrick.

Achilles was saddled with tack that would be used by a Civil War Calvary Officer with a pair of boots facing backwards. During funerals it is a powerful symbol of grief and the backward facing boots in the stirrups to represents the fallen having one last look at his or her loved ones.

Horses have played a significant role in the U.S. military throughout history, from riding into battle to honoring fallen heroes during funerals. Horses have served in nearly every capacity during war, including transportation, reconnaissance missions, cavalry charges, packing supplies, and communications.

In addition to boosting morale and courage of troops, these powerful animals even became weapons when taught to kick, strike and bite. Before the evolution of military technology, horses were a critical and flexible component in military strategy. This silent partner of service members could help turn the tide in a battle. The horse’s influence on U.S. military history can be seen prominently all the way into the Second World War.

Today, horses are returning to prominence in today’s U.S. Special Armed Forces. The need for service members trained on horses has returned after military units traveled and fought on horseback through rugged terrains in Afghanistan in 2001.

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