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Jeremy Light didn't consider himself an avid horseman when he was assigned to the caisson platoon at Arlington National Cemetery.

He'd only watched horses in movies and ridden one a couple of times. His military experience was in jumping out of airplanes in war zones, not corralling 42 horses and 50 soldiers.

But today the 1987 Thurston graduate says he's found more joy in his work inside the stables than in any other Army assignment in the last 16 years.

"The hours are long, but it's the most rewarding job I've had," 34-year-old Light said. "It's just relaxing to come into the barn and play with the horses."

Light oversees the caisson platoon at Fort Myer, Virginia. The horse-drawn caissons, or wheeled wagons rom 1918, carry the caskets of slain soldiers, presidents, astronauts and other noteworthy citizens buried at the cemetery in Washington, D.C.

The platoon is part of the 3rd Infantry, traditionally known as the Old Guard and the oldest active duty infantry unit in the Army.

"I love the challenge and working with some really, really good soldiers," Light said. "It's a once in a lifetime opportunity."

Light saw action during the first Gulf War and was deployed twice to Saudi Arabia and Kosovo. He currently lives in a little town 50 miles south of Fort Myer with his wife, Jessica, and 11-year-old daughter, Lauren.

His day at the stables begins at 4 a.m. as the soldiers prepare their horses for the first burial of the day. The platoon participates in as many as eight services a day Monday through Friday. A typical day ends at 5:30 p.m.

After Light finishes two or three years managing the platoon, he said he'd like to take an Army position in Alaska "or go back to jumping out of airplanes."

Posted: 26 July 2003