A Connecticut Vietnam veteran and his horse, Melody, have honored other fallen veterans almost 600 times.
However, a recent storm has put that legacy in jeopardy.
"In the beginning when I told people I was going to do it, they thought I was little a fruit loops. They said, 'You're going to bring your horse to a funeral and people are going to laugh at you,'" said Sgt. Rick Kowalker.
Kowalker bringing Melody along was about honoring those who served.
"I can't ride the horse at the funeral," Kowalker said. "It has to be what they call a riderless horse with the boots in backwards in the stirrups and it's to symbolize a fallen hero."
Kowalker and Melody started this tradition several years ago and he knew from the start they'd share a special bound.
"[I] saw a sign that said horse for adoption," Kowalker said. "I didn't know what it meant, but I think that's why I checked it because I was adopted myself."
Recently that bond was tested after a winter storm destroyed part of Melody's barn.
"Around here you have to have a place for your horse," Kowalker said. "You just can't be keeping it out all winter long."
Just like other Marines did for him on the battlefield, neighbors started to come to Kowalker's aide. One donated his barn as a temporary shelter while others started an online campaign to build a permanent home.
The permanent barn will hopefully go just steps away from the final resting place for many veterans. It's also the same place where Kowalker and Melody conducted their first funeral.
Neighbors hope to raise $6,000 to ensure Kowalker and Melody can continue to give other veterans a proper sendoff.
"It sure is a good feeling to look out my back door and see my horse right there too," Kowalker said.
If you would like to help Kowalker and Melody, click here.
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