Friday, June 01, 2007

Army Sgt. Bruce E. Horner

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Bruce E. Horner, 43, or Newport News, Va.

Sgt. Horner was assigned to the 127th Military Police Company, 709th Military Police Battalion, 18th Military Police Brigade, 21st Theater Support Command, Fliegerhorst, Germany; died June 1, 2007 in Baghdad of wounds sustained when his unit came in contact with enemy forces using small-arms fire.

Loved ones say their final goodbyes to Army Sgt. Bruce Horner.
BY STEPHANIE HEINATZ

NEWPORT NEWS -- When Doug Horner learned that his brother had been killed in Iraq, he couldn't get the image of an enemy rifleman out of his mind.

Army Sgt. Bruce Horner - a 43-year-old, 18-year military veteran from Newport News - was killed June 1 by a sniper in Baghdad.

"If the man behind the rifle had known Bruce, if Bruce could have met him, he might have put the rifle down," Doug said at Sgt. Horner's funeral Thursday at Olivet Christian Church, where he and his wife worshipped for years.

His personality was larger than life, said David Willis, Sgt. Horner's pastor and long-time friend.

"If you didn't have a friend, you just needed to meet Bruce."

Because of that love for life, the 200 mourners gathered Thursday used the service as a time to celebrate his legacy.

"That's the way he would have wanted it," Willis added. "There is a time to weep and a time to laugh. There is a time to grieve and a time to dance."

And according to the many stories friends shared at the service, for Sgt. Horner there was always a time to eat.

"The boy loved to eat," one of his oldest friends told the crowd.

In ranking the list of things he loved, a good buffet fell somewhere between his marriage and his friends, Sgt. Horner's widow, Erin, said.

Sgt. Horner was equally dedicated to his convictions, a love for the Lord and going to the gym.

Sure, he was always in good shape.

But when friends ran into him at the gym they'd typically find him "standing around talking" in his tank top and weight belt. The crowd erupted in knowing laughter at that particular memory.

Sgt. Horner was one of the greatest church recruiters, Willis said. New people would often come to Sunday services at Olivet, saying they'd been invited by Sgt. Horner when they met him at the gym.

"Bruce never met a stranger," one person said. And he rarely let music play without singing or dancing along.

"I know he danced through those pearly gates and now heaven will never be the same."

He's left big shoes to fill, one friend said. "Did you ever see the size of his feet?" he added with a laugh, thinking of his 6-foot-4 friend.

An Air Force buddy told the congregation that Sgt. Horner also loved to foster their healthy Army versus Air Force rivalry.

Sgt. Horner joked that in Army basic training, new soldiers were issued combat boots. New airmen, he would say, are issued combat slippers.

He teased out of love for the Army. His military service was something he was proud of.

He was so committed to it, in fact, that he spent part of his two-week vacation from the war zone visiting wounded soldiers.

Partly because of that dedication, Erin Horner made sure that Sgt. Horner's burial service was filled with every military honor he was entitled to.

Unlike at the church, where laughter stood in the place of tears, the graveside ceremony at Peninsula Memorial Park in Newport News was somber.

Soldiers from a Fort Eustis honor guard greeted Sgt. Horner's casket with sharp, steady salutes.

The crowd put their hands over their hearts when soldiers lifted the American flag covering Sgt. Horner's casket.

Loved ones wept openly while a lone bugler played taps, then grew quiet as they watched an Army general kneel down before Erin.

On behalf of a grateful nation, he presented her with the folded flag.

Erin accepted the flag with a soft "thank you." She was grateful, too, for having been part of Sgt. Horner's life.

Army Sgt. Bruce E. Horner was killed in action on 6/1/07.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

I too met this great man at the gym. Not only did he show me the proper technique for lifting weights, but he also taught me to forgive anyone who hurt you or your family. I regret that I never took his offer to visit him at church. The world lost a good guy.

CPL
Germany

judyjenkins_65 said...

I attended church with Bruce at Grace Covenant while he was stationed in Missouri. Since I received the news of his death, my time has been filled with wonderful memories of his laughter and free-spirited ways. I thank God that because of these memories I am able to smile through my tears and sadness. He blessed me years ago by being a good friend, someone that I could count on if there was ever a need. I am greatful that he continues to bless me today with his memory. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and loved ones, and I would like to thank them for their sacrifices in allowing Bruce to express his love for his country and fellow man through his military service. I would also like to thank them for understanding his dedication to the freedom he fought so hard to defend. Bruce is a man who will surely be missed and we are all better people for knowing him. God Bless you all.

JJ
Denver, Colorado

GLC said...

I am so glad to say that I knew Bruce Horner. We worked togehter with the Club Beyond group in Graff. Germany between the years of 1989 and 91. He always made people laugh and he really enjoyed working with the young people. All of the pictures I have during that time shows how he laughed and lived. What a wonderful man he was. My prayers go out to Erin and the family. I am deeply saddened by his death. This conflict over there will not end soon enough!!! God Bless!!

Anonymous said...

I heard a news story today about Bruce Horner death in Iraq.
This story touched me in a different way and not because Bruce & I were born on the same day
It was the peace that Erin Horner had in her heart & soul knowing that her husband is in Heaven with the Father forever!
TK
Virginia Beach,VA

Anonymous said...

I lay awake tonight, and just thought of my dear friend SSG Bruce Horner. I found out about his death last year as I just got out of the Army. Not a day goes by that I wish I could have given my life instead of his. You couldn't have met a better person. I was stationed with him in Fort Eustis, VA. He was one of the most outstanding leaders I knew. He never hesitated to help anyone whether they were a Soldier or civilian alike. He trained me to work the road, and always kept my spirits up. I had a running in with God and questioned my faith. Bruce was the one there to guide me back into the light. He invited me to the church he attended in VA, and would spread the word of Jesus Christ in an appropriate manner that did not violate anyones own personal beliefs. He was full of life, always smiling, and loved being a leader and mentor to many. When Imade it back from Afghanistan, he tried to convince me to stay in, and how he knew I would make it far in my career. There was never a time I didn't see Bruce smiling or greeting every and anyone. He could make any room fill up with such happiness cause that was the type of person he was. I wish his family the best and hope they know that his life wasn't lived in vain; he was a true Soldier of God and helped so many in ways that could never be repaid. God truely did send us an Angel through Bruce's hands. I miss you and will see you again.

Kim said...

I miss Bruce so much. I remember when I met him ... He moved into the condo downstairs from the one I lived in and made me a friend from day one. We used to hang out at the pool and once we went to Buckroe Beach. He convinced me to go to Gold's Gym where he taught me a few things about working out. He even gave me a pair of gloves to wear when I lifted weights. That was 9 years ago. I wore those gloves for the first time a few weeks ago just because I wish he was still around. I work out a lot now... I guess he sewed that seed. He probably would have convinced me to go to church too had I not already been going. We also used to go to a Saturday night coffeehouse not far from where we lived. It was a Christian event and the worship was awesome! We used to stand in the back and sing at the tops of our lungs! Of course, his lungs are a lot bigger than mine so I couldn't even compare, but of course everyone in the coffeehouse knew we were back there praising our hearts out. I remember how my heart was both overjoyed and broken when someone reminded me of the way Bruce sang at the memorial service. I'm pretty sure that I introduced Bruce to his wife Erin at one of those coffeehouses. Oh boy you could see the glint in her eye for him immediately. I never asked Bruce about it but apparently they got together because next thing you know I found out they were getting married. hahaha I remember when we sort of lost touch. We'd run into each other every now and then and he'd hug me so hard it hurt. One of those times was at Kohl's in the shoe section. I was just trying to get away because I didn't want to have to tell him that I wasn't in church haha. Man I wish I had not tried to get away. I saw him and Erin again later driving their jeep. They were in front of my car... I remember us screaming hello's and i miss you's and i love you's out of our cars at each other, and I think I shouted out my phone number too... but I we never got in touch. I wish I coulda hugged him that day too. Ugh. He was such a great friend. Whether or not we were in touch, I always knew we were close. We still are. But man I miss him. I didn't know what to say to Erin when I saw her at the memorial service. I can't even imagine having to face such a big crowd when it feels like your world has caved in. I suppose her faith in the Lord is evident there for sure. I have Bruce's smiling face in a picture frame on my desk at work. I use it as a reminder that I have the power to impact my community... my coworkers, my friends, my family, just like Bruce does. I don't know if people in Heaven are concerned much with us on Earth... considering I'm sure once you get to Heaven you actually do fully trust God to take care of His kids. But if Bruce is paying attention, I can only imagine how much he smiled when John proposed to me this weekend. I still wish I could tell him about it in person. Anyway... I just wanted to share my memories.

~Kim Keith
Newport News, VA