Never Volunteer? One Horse Cavalryman’s Tale

IMG_1371

SGT George Grassman, 5th Infantry Division, 4th Squadron, 12th Cavalry, Ft. Carson, Colorado, did what every soldier is told NOT to do: volunteer. Yet there he was, a draftee mortarman (11C20) in 1965, in formation, listening to his infantry Platoon Sergeant lament about there not being enough horsemen to fill the saddles in an elite group of soldiers who would eat, sleep, live and breathe with one of the last cavalry outfits in the United States Army.

Little did George know at the time, he would be part of an original group of volunteers of the Ft. Carson Mounted Color Guard, whose motto, Semper Paratus means, “Always Ready.” The MCG celebrated its 50th anniversary in December 2015. The group’s founder Hugh Trabandt, was driven to reproduce the glory days of the horse soldier, after having been a member of the US Cavalry Horse Platoon in Berlin, Germany in 1954.

IMG_1372

SGT George Grassman, center

George had always liked horses. Growing up, his uncle had horses and would take George riding, so volunteering for the cavalry came naturally.

The 4th of the 12th was assigned parade and ceremony duty from time-to-time, but 24/7/365, they cared for and fed Army (and some civilian) horses, and loved every minute of it!

George told me tales of dress-right-dress in a trot for this ceremony or that; very disciplined, very serious, with every detail, from the straps to the spurs, looking perfect.

The horse cavalrymen had to make most of what they used for ceremonies, including piecing together uniforms, scarves, trim, and dyeing Army green wool blankets navy blue for the horse covers. When all was said and done, no one could tell that the trimmings and tack were homemade – the Army simply did not procure or supply cavalry fittings anymore.

IMG_3212

George told me about some of the more relaxed times, like one day, while out haying for the horses, the men of the unit, in civilian clothes outside the base in the hay fields, took turns to see how high they could stack the hay bales in the back of a pick-up truck to take back to the stables.

They got the hay so high that it caught the attention of a state police officer, who pulled the men over.

IMG_3206

George says, initially the officer told them he was going to write them a ticket, and they would have to go back and get rid of some of the hay because there was an overpass down the road that would surely not accommodate their towering stack.

The driver of the truck, lower in rank than George, quickly pointed out that George was in charge and should get the ticket instead of himself!

The officer demurred when George told the officer it wouldn’t be a problem to lower the height of the stack. The officer put away the summons and told the men to be careful.

Such antics were unique to the Horse Soldiers. Proud of their mounts and of their special status as favored ceremonial troops, George said he really enjoyed the duty.

IMG_3205IMG_3204

I would not be telling you about George and his service had it not been for his habit of volunteering for things.

Not too long ago, when my third Eagle Scout son, Theodore (17) was planning his project, George jumped up figuratively, and volunteered not just to help Theodore, but also to lend him his garage, tools, scrap wood, patio and barbecue!

George’s generosity and selfless service are second-to-none. George lives on Long Island, New York, and is married to Roberta, and they have three grown children; two boys and a girl who have given them four grandchildren.

We believe that George’s kindness had a halo effect around my son. The three of us, Eagle Scout project supply list in hand, went off to a local Home Depot to obtain what we needed for the project.

Theodore asked for the manager, Sue, who told him, “No problem,” when he asked for a donation or discount from the store for his project. Sue told him to get what he needed and then ask for her at the check-out.

Not long into the shopping, a tall, strapping gentleman, wearing a blue baseball cap with an eagle head on it, approached my son, who was in full Class “A” Boy Scout uniform, and asked him if he was shopping for his Eagle Scout project. Why, yes he was!

The gentleman, who introduced himself as Mike, asked Theodore what his project was about (banner hangers in our church – the First United Methodist Church of Port Jefferson, NY – for an abundance of church banners!), and when he found out it was for Theodore’s church (George and I are both Trustees of the church), Mike said, “Follow me.”

We followed him to the checkout, where he promptly purchased a $100 gift card for Theodore, handed it to him and said, “Someday, pay it forward.” We thanked Mike for his generosity and promised to invite him to Theodore’s Eagle Scout Court of Honor. A self-employed contractor, Mike admitted to being an Eagle Scout himself, and choosing an Eagle for his company’s logo.

But George’s good luck hadn’t yet worn off!

When we were finished shopping and then called for Sue at the check-out, prepared to pay partially with the gift card, Sue refused, saying, “It’s all on us.”

Needless to say, we were all blown away at Sue’s and Home Depot’s generosity. Sue told Theodore she wanted only one promise. Theodore had to swear to bring her photos of the finished project. Not a problem!

For the next two days we and about eight other Scouts (including Theodore’s younger brother, Hamilton (13), four more adults and Theodore’s two older brother Eagle Scouts, Benjamin (23) and Harrison (20), cut, sanded, nailed, glued and stained wooden banner hangers, ten of them, which would hold two banners each. George could still fit into his vintage Boy Scout shirt, and wore it during the project construction.

IMG_1024

Theodore, second from left; George, second from right; Harrison, right; Hamilton, center (red).

IMG_1003

Theodore and George

 

We went from George’s hand built stand-alone garage – looking good as new at some thirty-plus years old – to the back of the church’s choir room and then Theodore and George installed the hangers on the back wall.

IMG_1047

Mounted banner holders!

IMG_1063

Author, back, left; Theodore, back second from left; George, center; Benjamin, back center; Hamilton, front, second from right.

This wasn’t George’s first rodeo. Several years earlier, George had helped my second son, Harrison with his Eagle Scout project, installing energy efficient light fixtures in the church Community Room. George just can’t help volunteering for things!

This Veterans Day, seek out those veterans and their stories who might be right under your nose (maybe members of your own church or civic group), but are maybe too humble to mention their glorious past. You might be very surprised at what and whom you find.

s-l300

“Always Ready”

It took mentioning an old magazine cover I spotted in George’s garage during Theodore’s Eagle Scout project to get him to talk about his heyday. I’m very glad I spoke up. Moreover, I am glad that George volunteered to be one of the original Ft. Carson Mounted Color Guard horse soldiers.

IMG_3208

Advertisements