Pine Nuts: Sgt. Reckless

McAvoy Layne Special to the Sun

A good friend of mine, and talented Chautauquan, Kim Harris, writes for Western History Alive. Kim recently penned an excellent piece about a Mongolian mare that touched my heart. So I asked Kim if I could work, “Sgt. Reckless” into a Pine Nuts column, and she gave me her blessings…

“Sgt. Reckless,” as she was named, did not enlist in the Marine Corps, she was drafted. During the Korean War back in 1952 our Marines were wearing themselves out carrying heavy recoilless rifles up and down the steep Korean terrain, so one Marine company pooled their money and bought themselves a horse.

The recoilless had a horrendous blowback blast that lifted Reckless right off the ground the first time the two of them got acquainted, but she got used to bearing those blasts, and carried the effective weapon to wherever a vantage point was determined.

Then came “The Battle of the Nevada Cities,” one of the bloodiest battles of the Korean War. Our three outposts, “Vegas,” “Carson” and “Reno,” were so named because of the low odds we had of holding them. But Sgt. Reckless was relentless. Strapped with eight cannisters of ammo, weighing 192lbs., she got that ammo to where it needed to go. Wounded twice in the operation, Reckless never wavered, nor did she ever seem to tire. Once the ammo was delivered, she went straight to work carrying the wounded from the battlefield, and she did it with as much care as a Corpsman.

When we finally won the Battle of Nevada Cities, Reckless was awarded two Purple Hearts. Her dedication was an inspiration to our Marines, and they planned to celebrate her bravery once the war was over. And celebrate they did!

Reckless was promoted to Staff Sergeant and given a party at Camp Pendleton that is talked about even today. She was retired with honors and given a stable there on the base, where she was spoiled rotten with loving attention.

Reckless gave birth to three foals there at Camp Pendleton, the last being born in 1966, the same year Private Night Train Layne arrived at Camp Pendleton. The little colt and I had a lot in common, mainly, we didn’t know much, and loved to run. When I finally got some liberty, the first thing I did was to go for a run, and I remember running alongside a colt on the other side of a fence one afternoon, and smiling at the wild sense of freedom that was dancing in our blood. It most surely could have been one of Reckless’s three colts.

I never got to meet Sgt. Reckless, and only wish I had, now that I know her story. So I’ll close here and leave the last word to Kim, who put it so eloquently, “A little Mongolian mare, who started her career as a racehorse, has become the legacy of a true Marine. So let me say, Sgt. Reckless USMC – I salute you!”

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