Their duty done, two horses who led funerals at Arlington are given new homes

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The horse-drawn caisson for the burial service of U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Joshua Bowden is saluted as it approaches Arlington National Cemetery's Section 60 in Virginia September 27, 2013. Bowden, 28, was killed during active duty in Afghanistan August 31 and is from Villa Rica, Georgia.   REUTERS/Gary Cameron   (UNITED STATES - Tags: MILITARY) - RTX142DG

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JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to our “NewsHour” shares, something that caught our eye that might be of interest to you, too.

Two military veterans stepped down from their duties this summer, but they weren’t your typical soldiers.

The “NewsHour”‘s Julia Griffin reports on a pair of Army horses that were free to a good home.

JULIA GRIFFIN:  Every morning, rain or shine, the Caisson horses of the Army’s Old Guard fall in line at Arlington National Cemetery.

Together, two teams of horses and their human counterparts execute eight expertly choreographed funeral processions a day for deceased military officers and service members killed in action.

It’s a precise job that requires a particular kind of horse.

1ST LT. AUSTIN HATCH, Caisson Platoon Leader:  We’re looking more for behavior.  Teamwork is a big part and then being able to stay calm with the flags waving around or loud sounds in the background.  We’re trying to keep them as calm as possible, so that the processions go smoothly.

JULIA GRIFFIN:  Horses typically serve a 10-year tenure with the Caisson unit, but when one horse, Kennedy, began to act out and another named Quincy acquired a painful ailment in his hoof, the Army decided it was time the two be retired from service.

1ST LT. AUSTIN HATCH:  They have worked extremely hard for this country and honoring its fallen, so we look for the best homes for them, retirement homes, where they will be well taken care of after their service.

CARROLL URZENDOWSKI, Caisson Horse Adopter:  They actually deserve the best home that can be provided for them.  And I felt that my wife and children and myself, we could do that for them.

JULIA GRIFFIN:  Carroll Urzendowski, a former platoon sergeant with the Caisson unit, was chosen to adopt Kennedy out of dozens of applicants from across the country.

The Standardbred horse, who had once served as the iconic riderless horse, will now live out his golden years at Urzendowski’s 85-acre ranch in Roganville, Texas.

CARROLL URZENDOWSKI:  It’s a great honor to know that every day, the horse that I adopted, he provided that service to his country, and then I could teach my children as they get older what Kennedy actually provided for the nation.

KRISTEN WHITTAKER, Adopted Quincy:  This was a big, big honor for us.

JULIA GRIFFIN:  Kristen Whittaker and her husband, Sean Sutton, a former sergeant in the Army National Guard, were selected to adopt Quincy.  Heated stables and a trained medical staff await the Quarter Horse at their farm just south of Boston.

KRISTEN WHITTAKER:  We are lucky enough to be able to provide some medical intervention for him and some corrective shoeing.

It’s the same responsibility that I have to any of my own horses, give them a quality of life and hopefully keep them really happy through their elder years.  And he will go to his forever home now.

JULIA GRIFFIN:  Two horses who served in the most solemn service, the burial of those killed in war, now being offered new homes by military veterans.

For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Julia Griffin in Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  What a lovely story.

The post Their duty done, two horses who led funerals at Arlington are given new homes appeared first on PBS NewsHour.