The day started just like any other workday for Spc. Kevin Morthorst. He arrived to work early to clean his boots, shine his brass and inspect his horse. However, by the end of the day, he would reach a huge milestone in his military career.
Morthorst, an infantryman assigned to Caisson Platoon, 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), performed his 1,000th Caisson ride, Nov. 9, 2012.
The Caisson Platoon has the distinguished honor of carrying deceased soldiers to their final resting place in Arlington National Cemetery, Va.
Morthorst is the only soldier within the last eight years to achieve this accomplishment.
“I just wanted to make a difference even if it was small,” said Morthorst, who has been assigned to The Old Guard since 2007. “The horses will be on time and looking good, and my uniform will be sharp and clean. Those small details mean so much to those grieving families.”
Sgt. Gustavo Diav, a Caisson platoon squad leader, said Morthorst’s success was truly amazing.
“He truly loves his job, the missions and especially those horses,” said Diav. “I am very proud of him because it is not easy at all. It takes a dedicated soldier to do what he has done and that’s who Morthorst is.”
Morthorst admitted he had to overcome some challenges in order to perform his duties. Some of these challenges were more personal than others.
“I had the honor of being in the Caisson that carried the father of a friend to his final resting place.” said Morthorst. “It was tough to help bury someone that I know. Going through that with the family was something I never experienced before.”
Morthorst said his support to the family not only helped them cope with the tragic moment but it helped him as well.
Additionally, the support from Diav, the rest of the Caisson soldiers and his family helped him through other rough missions.
“I couldn’t have gotten this far without the people in my life,” said Morthorst. “It’s not just me out there in the cemetery. It is a total team effort. We have experienced everything from stubborn horses to the blazing heat in the summer and the cold in the winter, but no matter what, the ceremony must go on. If we do our job, then the families will have peace and respect that they deserve.”
Morthorst added that all of these experiences, from the time he arrived until his 1,000th mission, have made him into a better soldier.
“We train on how to handle a lot of responsibilities. I mean we’ve got more than 60 horses to worry about,” he said “Just being prepared and on time everyday is half the battle. Everything we do here can be translated into other areas in life.”
Morthorst remains humble about his achievement and maintains it was never about reaching a certain number but about always getting the job done. He continues to view each mission in the same light as when he first started.
“Every day I am doing something that I will remember for the rest of my life. I know that one day I will tell my kids that their dad was a part of the Caisson platoon,” said Morthorst. “[I] rode for more than 1,000 families. [I] rode for more than 1,000 heroes. What this platoon does every day is very important, and I am just a small part in the history of this unit.”
Story by Sgt. Luisito Brooks
3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment “The Old Guard”