Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Bruce E. Horner dies 'of wounds suffered when his unit came in contact with enemy forces using small arms fire'

Many of the people in the pews of a church in the Tidewater area of Virginia share a special tie to Bruce E. Horner. Horner, the pastor's wife said last night, was the one who brought them there.

Horner, 43, was a strapping, extroverted, fun-loving man who, according to those who knew him, never hesitated to invite new acquaintances to his church in Newport News.

On Friday, Horner, an Army veteran of long service who was a sergeant with the military police, died in Baghdad of wounds inflicted by enemy small-arms fire, the Pentagon said.

"He was a wonderful guy," said Tammy Willis, the wife of the Rev. David Willis, pastor of Olivet Christian Church, where Horner sang and worked with youth groups.

Either you already belonged to Horner's church, the pastor said, or Horner invited you to come. Even if his invitations were not accepted, they did not seem to offend, Willis said. "He had that sort of ability."

His mother-in-law, Sandra McDaniel, said Horner was "a wonderful guy," fond of sports and full of high spirits. Sometimes, she said, he was "like a big kid" in his good-natured enthusiasm.

McDaniel recalled how Horner and his wife, Erin, were wed on a Tidewater area beach in March 2003. He looked handsome, she said, and his bride wore a beautiful gown. And both were "in their Birkenstocks."

It "was the way they lived," McDaniel said. "They laughed so much together."

Horner's two favorite places, she said, were the church and the gym. He and his wife were fond of biking and running and attended church together, she said.

"He had this almost glow about him," McDaniel said. He "loved people, and he loved helping people."

Once, he delivered Christmas presents to an immigrant couple and then launched into a chorus of "Feliz Navidad," she said.

The couple had arrived from Korea and scarcely knew English, let alone Spanish. But, she said, Horner's intent was clear. He "had a heart of gold" and was "trying to do something nice . . . trying to make them feel welcome."

He could not cook, McDaniel said, but he tried and could "be goofy in the sweetest way."

One Christmas, she said, when Horner and her daughter were low on cash, they gave friends certificates redeemable for babysitting hours. Her daughter regularly sent him treats in Iraq, which he shared with his fellow soldiers and with young village children.

"People need to know," his mother-in-law said of the troops serving in Iraq, "that these are real people. They have feelings. They have families. They're doing the best they can."

Horner was assigned to the 127th Military Police Company, 709th Military Police Battalion, 18th Military Police Brigade, 21st Theater Support Command in Fliegerhorst, Germany. He grew up in Lorain, Ohio, and his parents, Ed and Betty, live in Cleveland.

From the Washington Post