CGMCG rides in biggest Memorial Day parade
Spc. Chris Frost on Trooper, Sgt. Tommy Evans on Saber, Sgt. Jordan Wright on Cincinnati, Spc. Katie Strayer on Lexington and Spc. Kasey Crauthers on Winchester present the colors May 26 in downtown Chicago as part of the city’s annual Memorial Day parade. Photo by: Sgt. Jeff Granda, 139TH MPAD.
Story by: Amanda Kim Stairrett
1ST INF. DIV. PUBLIC AFFAIRS
The Commanding General's Mounted Color Guard made its sixth appearance in the largest Memorial Day parade in the country May 26.
Sgt. Tommy Evans, Sgt. Jordan Wright, Spc. Kasey Crauthers, Spc. Katie Strayer and Spc. Chris Frost and horses Saber, Cincinnati, Winchester, Lexington and Trooper presented the colors, leading the procession through downtown Chicago.
Staff Sgt. William Johns and Spc. Dontrell Welch also attended, serving on the ground crew.
The CGMCG got asked to participate in the parade because of its annual work with the First Division Museum at Cantigny in Wheaton, Ill.
Several members of the CGMCG were at the museum the weekend of May 19 during Military Appreciation Day. The CGMCG presented a static display and conducted the day's opening ceremonies.
It was an honor to lead a parade with such importance, Wright said.
More than 200,000 spectators attended the parade.
Participating in one of the largest U.S. parades was a thrill, said 1st Sgt. John Wear, CGMCG's senior noncommissioned officer. Part of that thrill came from being able to ride the horses through downtown Chicago, something many people couldn't do, he said.
The riders prepared for the parade by practicing every day, even taking the horses to downtown Topeka May 22. The five riders paraded, behind a police escort with sirens blaring, down Kansas Avenue to acclimate the horses to tall buildings, traffic and city noise.
"For the horses, it is all about desensitizing them," Wear said. "We as humans take an animal out of its 'normal' environment and expose them to some pretty wild and unnatural things. The more a horse is exposed to it, the less of a threat it becomes."
The practice in Topeka proved beneficial, Strayer said, because none of the horses spooked at the strange city noises.
"It was different riding in an area lined with 30-story buildings and hearing all the sounds echo off the walls, but my horse behaved beautifully," she said of Lexington.
One never stops learning and neither does the horse, Wear said.
"Every time we get on the back of a horse, we are training for something, even while actively conducting an event," he said. "For the Soldiers, it is about ensuring they are confident in their ability to control the horse and that the horse will listen to the Soldier."
The group was approached by many veterans, Crauthers said, leading to a good experience in Chicago. Strayer said she was proud to take part in the parade and "represent Fort Riley and Soldiers in general."
Frost was one of the troopers who experienced the parade for the first time, and said the people in Chicago were awesome and friendly.
"It was an honor to be part of such a big parade and (it) could not have been a better group of people from the CGMCG to go with," he said.