Petition seeks to allow burial in national cemetery for Marine war horse and Purple Heart recipient

Staff Sgt. Reckless is a Marine and Korean War veteran who received the Purple Heart. A petition is seeking to have her buried in a national cemetery in the Washington, D.C. area. Photo credit National Archives

It’s no secret that some heroes have four legs.

You can count Korean War and Marine veteran Staff Sgt. Reckless among those heroes. Add to that, the Mongolian mare is also a Purple Heart recipient.

Currently buried at Camp Pendleton, California, a petition organized by former Marine tank commander Dylan Clark and President and Founder of Three Pearls Charities Jamie McLaughlin seeks to allow Reckless a proper burial at either Arlington or  Quantico National Cemetery.

“We’d like to see her recognized for what she accomplished,” explained McLaughlin.

As a Purple Heart recipient, Reckless is eligible for burial alongside her fellow veterans, but existing protocol legal processes and regulations have prevented the request from becoming a reality.

Clark said Reckless, who was born in 1948, was purchased by the Marine Corps from a race track. She trained to be a pack horse for the Recoilless Rifle Platoon, Platoon, Anti-Tank Company, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.

“They taught her how to step over barbed wire,” added McLaughlin. “She actually was able to run communications wire. She knew to go back to her bunker when they gave the order `incoming.’ She was highly intelligent.”

Reckless was classified as an ammunition carrier, and served in Korea from Oct. 1952 to July 1953. During the Battle of Outpost Vegas, Reckless rushed back and forth from the frontlines delivering ammunition and bringing back wounded Marines.

“During the course of that battle, she was wounded twice but she refused to stop running back to the front and bringing back her Marines,” Clark said.

McLaughlin said Reckless kept the Marines’ guns loaded during the battle. She is estimated to have carried over 9,000 pounds of explosives in her 51 trips to the front lines and to have traveled over 35 miles in a single day.

Marine Corps and Korean War veteran Staff Sgt. Reckless Photo credit National Archives

“During Outpost Vegas she kept the guns firing so fast that I believe one got so hot they had to shut it down,” she said.

Under heavy fire, she made 95% of her deliveries alone, without another Marine to guide her. Reckless was wounded twice, by shrapnel above her left eye and then again on her left flank.

“She was a remarkable Marine,” added Clark. “She made most of her trips up to the front lines delivering ammunition and bringing wounded Marines back on her back without a lead. She did this of her own volition, without anybody having to coax her on.”

Following the battle, Reckless was awarded the Purple Heart as well the rank of corporal by then Col. Randolph McCall Pate, who would later become the commandant of the Marine Corps.

“Col. Pate credited her with turning the tide of battle and actually holding OUtpost Vegas,” Clark said.

Clark believes that is the reason Pate recognized Reckless as a hero.

“Horses weren’t used frequently,” said McLaughlin. “She was a real novelty.”

Following her return from Korea, Reckless was promoted to sergeant and given a home at the Camp Pendleton stables. Her retirement ceremony was held on Nov. 10, 1960 – the 185th birthday of the Marine Corps.

“They paid her out just like any other Marine with full retirement pay, which they called room and board for her because she didn’t have any need for cash,” McLaughlin said with a laugh.

During her retirement, Reckless was promoted to staff sergeant. She died on May 13, 1968.  Several monuments to Reckless can be seen around the country, at the National Museum of the Marine Corps, Triangle, Virginia; Camp Pendleton; Kentucky Horse Park. Lexington, Kentucky; the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame, Fort Worth, Texas; Barrington Hills Farm in Barrington Hills, Illinois; and the World Equestrian Center, Ocala, Florida. A memorial to Reckless can also be found near the Outpost Vegas Battlefield in Korea.

Life magazine also listed Reckless among America’s top 100 all-time heroes.

Clark and McLaughlin stressed that burying Reckless in a national cemetery in the Washington, D.C. area will not take away a plot for a human military veteran and no government funding will be requested for the effort.

You can learn more about Reckless’ career and legacy in the petition here. The petition has the goal of 200 signatures.

Reach Julia LeDoux at

Featured Image Photo Credit: National Archives