Master Sgt. Kelly L. Hornbeck
36 of Fort Worth, Texas
18 January 2004
south of Samarra, Iraq
Company C, 3rd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group
based at Fort Carson, Colorado
Special Forces Condolences Book
18 January 2004
Kelly L. Hornbeck
sustained injuries on
January 16, 2004
when an improvised explosive device hit his vehicle
two days later on
18 January 2004
Special Forces Soldier killed in Iraq
While in South America fighting drug dealers for the U.S. military, Master Sgt. Kelly L. Hornbeck flew a Texas flag over his camp.
When asked by a friend, retired Command Sgt. Maj. Joseph Callahan, why the banner was chosen, Hornbeck replied: "When those guerrillas attack, I want them to know there's a Texan here."
Hornbeck, 36, was wounded Jan. 16, 2004, when an explosive device hit his vehicle near Samarraon. The soldier, who was stationed at Fort Carson, Colo., died two days later.
Born in Selma, Ala., Hornbeck graduated high school in 1985 in Fort Worth, and left Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas, after a year to join the military.
"Dad was a great friend," one of Hornbeck's daughters, 11-year-old Jacqueline McCall, said at her father's funeral. "He died for his country and he was the best soldier because he was brave."
Master Sgt. Kelly L. Hornbeck sent signals to his parents when he went on a classified mission.
Once, through a vague letter, Hornbeck let them know that he would be out of touch for a while but that they should not worry and that he loved them very much.
"My training is not only limited to that which has been bestowed on me by the mightiest military in the world but also by the greatest set of parents in the world," the 36-year-old Special Forces soldier wrote to his parents, Jeff and Camille Hornbeck of Fort Worth.
"I am who I am because ya'll made me that way, and for that I thank you." Kelly Hornbeck's parents learned late last week that their only surviving child had been gravely wounded in Iraq. The Defense Department later reported that an explosive device struck his vehicle on Friday while he was on patrol with his unit south of Samarra. He died two days later at a hospital in Baghdad.
On Wednesday, his parents spoke about his life, their loss and their love of country.
"He was doing a job he was called to do," Camille Hornbeck said during a news conference in the front yard of their southwest Fort Worth home.
"We just want to celebrate Kelly's life as a hero and to let the world know he is a special young man."
Kelly was buried with full military honors. He leaves behind two daughters, Jacqueline McCall, 10, of Frederick, Md., and Tyler Rae Hornbeck, 7, of Lumber Bridge, N.C.
On Wednesday, the Hornbecks offered thanks for the support they have received since learning of their son's death. They also wanted to speak out in support of the soldiers in Iraq and to remind Americans to be patient.
"We feel it is important to support the guys still doing their job," said Jeff Hornbeck, a retired Air Force major.
"It is a very difficult task to build a democracy," he said.
Kelly Hornbeck was born in Selma, Ala., but he lived around the world while his father -- a pilot and a Vietnam veteran -- served at several military posts. The family moved into and out of Fort Worth, returning to stay in 1983.
Hornbeck graduated from Paschal in 1985. He attended Tarleton State University for one year, playing on the college's football team, before enlisting in the Army in 1987.
At first he trained as an infantryman, but he was eventually promoted to drill sergeant. He volunteered for duty with the Special Forces in 1990 and served as a combat diver, a free-fall parachutist and a jump master.
It was a dangerous way to make a living, his parents said.
"You knew you had to function, so you put it in another place," Jeff Hornbeck said about his knowledge of the perils his son faced daily. "There was a lot of denial that something may happen.
"They were always where the pot was bubbling," he added.
In recent years, Kelly Hornbeck did one tour of duty in Afghanistan and was serving his second tour in Iraq when he was killed. His friends said he didn't talk much about his work during visits home.
But Graves and others said they began corresponding with Hornbeck and members of his unit in Iraq. Graves said it was a grassroots effort to show support for the military's work through letters and "goody bags."
Camille Hornbeck, an English teacher at Daggett Montessori School, said students sent seven big boxes of items after her son mentioned that Iraqi children didn't have soccer balls.
Daggett Principal Judy Seymour said the students are dealing with Kelly Hornbeck's death "pretty well."
"Even though we have a heavy heart, we are ready to celebrate the wonderful life of a wonderful soldier," Seymour said.
During the news conference, the Hornbecks repeatedly said that they endorse the work being done by armed forces in Iraq and that they will say so again today during a memorial service for their son at Fort Carson.
Many soldiers at the base are either returning from or leaving for Iraq.
Jeff Hornbeck said the family wants to "encourage the soldiers who still have a job to do."
Those sentiments are echoed in the letter Kelly Hornbeck wrote that his parents made public Wednesday.
"If ya'll are reading this, then I am on my way to help do my part to ensure the future security of our great nation," Hornbeck wrote. "I don't take this charge lightly or with a cavalier attitude, rather with a resolute heart and a clear conscience.
"I am strongly convinced that what we are doing is just and worthy of all that could be spent in the effort. I am not afraid and neither should either of you be."
He ended the message with thoughts of his family.
"If anything untoward should befall me please insure that the qualities you raised me with get passed onto my children," he wrote. "I love you both very much and intend to see you soon!"
He will be buried next to his older brother, Kurt Lee Hornbeck, who died more than 10 years ago.
In addition to his parents and his daughters, survivors include his grandmother, Camille Lee, and an uncle, Dr. Bill Lee, both of Fort Worth.
The funeral for Army Master Sgt. Kelly Hornbeck was at 2 p.m. Saturday at Travis Avenue Baptist Church, West Berry and Hemphill streets. Burial followed in Greenwood Cemetery.
Kelly Hornbeck's letter home
Here is an undated letter from Kelly Hornbeck to his parents:
Dear Mom and Dad:
If ya'll are reading this, then I am on my way to help do my part to ensure the future security of our great nation. I don't take this charge lightly or with a cavalier attitude, rather with a resolute heart and a clear conscience. I am strongly convinced that what we are doing is just and worthy of all that could be spent in the effort. I am not afraid and neither should either of you be, for I trust in my God (Psalm 23) and my training, two powerful forces that cannot be fully measured.
My training is not only limited to that which has been bestowed on me by the mightiest military in the world but also by the greatest set of parents in the world. I am who I am because ya'll made me that way, and for that I thank you.
If anything untoward should befall me please insure that the qualities you raised me with get passed onto my children. I love you both very much and intend to see you soon!
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