RALEIGH — A Senate bill containing money to support the North Carolina Trooper Association Caisson Unit is making its way through the General Assembly.
Senate Bill 424 seeks to appropriate $250,000 in nonrecurring funds for the 2021-2022 fiscal year to aid in upkeep and maintenance of the Caisson Unit’s facilities, vehicles and teams of horses. The bill’s primary sponsor is Sen. Jim Perry (R-Lenoir).
A caisson is a horse-drawn military wagon that transports a funeral casket, typically for funeral proceedings for members of the military, first responders and law enforcement. But it is best known for its use at Arlington National Cemetery where it has carried the caskets of fallen soldiers and former United States presidents. North Carolina’s caisson is Amish built, measuring seven feet wide, 24 feet long and weighing approximately 1,500 pounds when loaded with a casket.
Perry said the funding is making its way through the process at the legislature and that the Caisson Unit is important to so many people. He said there is a lot of support for the bill in both chambers.
“The horses are actually housed in Wayne County,” Perry told North State Journal. “Rep. Bell and I have personal relationships with the men and women who spend all their time caring for the horses, volunteering and fundraising. It really is a family-type of environment.”
Perry added that the funding in the bill for the Caisson Unit is the “right thing, because it touches so many lives.”
North Carolina’s Caisson Unit is a non-profit partnership affiliated with the North Carolina State Highway Patrol and the North Carolina Trooper’s Association. The unit, which often has to spring into action inside of 24 hours, relies solely on donations. These can be made by visiting their website at: https://www.nctacaisson.org/donate/
The state’s Caisson Unit has been trained by the U.S. Army’s “Old Guard” at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. The first time the unit began operating was on May 14, 2007, at the State Highway Patrol Training Academy for the Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Service. Just over a year later, in June of 2008, the unit performed its first funeral service, for Trooper David Shawn Blanton.
To pull the caisson, the unit has six horses, ranging in ages from 10 to 25 years old. Their names are Dunn, Kiwi, Willie, Waylon, Kate and Nell.