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Letters to the Editor: Horses also gave their all

As we move toward the commemoration day known as Veterans Day and Armistice Day, I want to point out an omission in many of our remembrances: the horses that lost their lives in wartime.
Some, like those ridden by the Polish cavalry into German machine gun fire as late as World War II, died in battle. Horses, as well as automotive machinery, were used more often in that conflict, by numerous combatants, than the usual images suggest. Others died as civilians too often did, as collateral damage or as victims of diminishing nutrition or outright starvation.
Look closely some time at Picasso’s great painting of a Spanish Civil War atrocity “Guernica” and observe how much of its power comes from its depiction of the death agonies of a horse. Picasso at least did not overlook such sacrifices.
A few horses from our own Civil War bear famous names, such as Gen. Robert E. Lee’s “Traveler.” In Vermont, Gen. Edward H. Ripley’s “Old John” is buried on the north side of Route 4 east of Rutland near the Sugar and Spice Restaurant, which occupies part of the acreage where Ripley once ran a horse-breeding farm.
Absent a national effort to create a monument to horses’ wartime service, Vermont should have one. Perhaps like the Morgan horse, what started here could cross all distances.
Ed Barna
Middlebury

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