There was no horsing around for this man, who stopped at nothing to honor a fellow veteran.
Richard Kowalker, a 66-year-old from Middletown, Connecticut, often attends veteran funerals with his "riderless horses" as part of a tradition to honor a soldier's service. In this custom, a horse with boots set backwards and no rider in the saddle follows the casket.
The 66-year-old, who served as a Marine in Vietnam, was set to attend a funeral for World War II veteran Norman Varney this past Saturday. But the night before, he realized that his horse trailer was damaged and he would be unable to cart his horses there. That setback didn't stop Kowalker, however; he alternately walked and rode the two horses through the night, traveling more than 15 miles to make it to the funeral, WSFB reported.
"The Marine Corps motto is "semper fidelis" -- Latin for 'always faithful.' ... I have a lifelong commitment to adhere to. Once a Marine, always a Marine," Kowalker told The Huffington Post in an email. "Sgt. Norman Varney was at Iwo Jima in World War II, the most famous battle in Marine Corps history. I considered it an honor to be in the presence of such people. ... I am quite sure he would have done the same for me if the situation was reversed."
The extraordinary gesture touched many and a fundraising page was created to help pay for a new horse trailer. Donors have already doubled the original goal, raising more than $4,000 for Kowalker.
Police from different towns along the walk escorted him during his trek, according to the fundraising page. Later on, Ken Yavis, who owns a horse trailer, spotted Kowalker, his horse, Melody, and his friend's horse, Sassy, WFSB reported. Yavis got his own trailer and helped Kowalker for the rest of the way, allowing the animals to take a break at his house and eventually bringing them to the service.
Yavis, like many others, was moved by Kowalker's devotion.
"I never got a chance to serve," Yavis told WFSB. "But someone like that who continues to give, you have to help him."
For the humble Kowalker, his actions weren't anything out of the ordinary.
"I gave my word and I like to be a person of my word," he told WFSB.
To learn more about Richard Kowalker or to donate, visit the fundraising page created for him here.
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