CAMPPENDLETON.  Few stories better illustrate the military’s promise to leave no one behind than that of Staff Sgt. Reckless, a horse who became a decorated Marine during the Korean War.

Plans have begun to honor the horse, once left behind in Korea. A Marine officer purchased Reckless from a Korean boy who needed money to buy his sister an artificial leg, according to Marine Lt. Col. Andrew Geer, who commanded the 2nd Battalion, 5th Regiment of the 1st Division in Korea.

Geer wrote two articles about the horse for The Saturday Evening Post in the 1950s and later wrote a book, “Reckless, the Pride of the Marines.” The horse served at the bloody Battle of Vegas after training as an ammunitions carrier, according to Geer. He wrote:

“Every yard she advanced was showered with explosives. Fifty-one times she marched through the fiery gantlet of the Red barrage and she saved the day for the Leathernecks.”

Bob Rogers, a former Navy corpsman who now lives in Kansas, remembers Reckless wandering around a military camp in Korea wearing a blanket bearing stripes and her Purple Heart. Rogers said in a recent interview that he is planning a statue to honor the horse. The location has yet to be decided. Rogers said Reckless had a weakness for rations. “We’d go out for the day and return to a wrecked tent,” he said. “Reckless could smell any goodies, especially cookies, and would find them guaranteed!

“A lieutenant, myself and others were in a circle talking. Reckless came up behind one fellow and nuzzled the back of his neck.
It scared the guy, and he cussed Reckless, calling her a “blanking nag.” The
lieutenant sternly let him know Reckless was a hero and had done more for the
Marine Corps than he ever would. And since Reckless outranked him, any further verbal abuse would be cause for disciplinary action. “I had the honor of being in
formation when Cpl. Reckless was promoted to sergeant,” saidRogers, 70.

Reckless was left in South Korea as her Marine buddies returned home, but after publication of Geer’s article, Post readers and friends of the horse arranged to bring her to the United States. In preparation for her transfer to Camp Pendleton, Geer wrote the Commandant of the Marine Corps in Washington, D.C.:

“The undersigned is in hearty agreement that Reckless should bestationed at Camp
Pendleton. . . . It should be kept in mind, however, that this is no ordinary horse and she should have special care and attention. . . . It is suggested her court be in the
vicinity of the Commanding General’s quarters andproperly marked with
appropriate sign, so that all will know this to be the home of Sergeant Reckless, Pride of the Marines.

“… Her shoes should be removed and she be allowed to go barefoot for a period of six weeks,” Geer contiued. “At that time, her feet should be trimmed and new shoes fitted. Only the most knowing and patient horseshoer should be employed. Sergeant Reckless is extremely proud of her feet and will not stand for inexpert attention. Several Korean horseshoers will painfully attest to this statement.”

The memo continued, “During the heat of Korea, when potable water was scarce or non-existent,Reckless came to know and like certain liquids other than water. She is fond of coca cola and milk. Under the stress of battle she has been known to drink beer.

Geer cautioned the commandant about a producer with plans to portray Reckless as a chatty horse modeled after the 1950 movie, “Francis, the Talking Mule.” “One is a Hollywood clown and the other a gallant Marine who won honors in one of the bloodiest battles fought by American troops,” he wrote. In 1959, five years after arriving at Camp Pendleton, Reckless was promoted to a staff sergeant.

Retirement, however, did not mean that her exploits are at an end, because the fame of Reckless has spread far and wide, and good Marines, unlike some, do not fade away. Semper fidelis,  always faithful, was never a more fitting motto than in the example of this horse.

Reckless died in 1968 and was survived by three offspring.