- Posted May 2, 2013 by
Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Virginia
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Salute to troops
Survivor Outreach Services assists families of fallen Soldiers
Layla, 4, sits next to her mother Antonette Hornsby holding a photograph of her husband Chief Warrant Officer 3 Brian Hornsby, in the Survivor Outreach Services office in Bldg. 203, on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va., March 29, 2013. Brian Hornsby was killed in a helicopter crash last year. (photo by Rachel Larue)
By Julia LeDoux
JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va. - In one photograph, Brian Hornsby looks out from the cockpit of his Blackhawk helicopter - calm, competent and confident, the quintessential American soldier.
In another, he's a proud dad, holding his newborn daughter in the crook of his arm, a wide grin on his face.
Those photos perfectly capture the various facets of Brian's personality, said his wife Antonette, recalling her husband's life and legacy during an interview at the Survivor Outreach Services office on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall.
"He loved what he did," she said. "He was always excited about his job. He loved to fly, there's no doubt about it."
Brian, 37, of Melbourne, Fla., a chief warrant officer 3, was at the helm of a Blackhawk helicopter Aug. 16, 2012, when it was shot down by a rocket propelled grenade while on a mission over Afghanistan.
"They were almost done with the mission," Antonette said. "They were circling around a little bit. I was told that the people who shot them down were not your average Taliban insurgents."
After it was hit, Antonette said her husband's copter crashed immediately. In addition to Brian, six other service members were killed.
"The entire day after that, there was a firefight," she said.
Touching the Gold Star lapel pin she wore on her sweater, Antonette said Brian began his Army career in 1998 in the infantry. His love of flying led him to flight school, where he received his pilot's wings upon graduation in 2001.
The couple met when Brian was serving as a military police officer before he went to flight school. "I worked at a restaurant where they'd [Brian and his fellow Soldiers] come in all the time," Antonette said.
"We were friends for a while. He did his own thing, I did my own thing."
That friendship deepened into something more when Antonette visited Brian in Germany while in Europe during her junior year in college. They were wed in 2006.
Their daughter Layla, 4, was born in Germany, and son Brady, 3, was born in Florida. Antonette is working hard to keep Brian's memory alive and vibrant for their children.
"We talk about him a lot," she said. "There's no hesitation. We're always talking about him. We talk about things he liked to do."
Antonette described how she "often talks with Layla about how it feels to fly, how helicopters work and what they do. At age three, Layla could differentiate and recognize a Chinook and a Black Hawk when they flew around our house in Hawaii. Now, she recognizes Marine One when she sees it."
This past Easter Sunday, Antonette said she took Layla to Arlington National Cemetery for the first time to visit Brian.
"Layla pointed out all the flowers on the graves and asked about them. I said they were for special people like daddy, and leaving flowers is a way to honor and remember all the special people we miss and love. Layla asked if there were other daddies there, and I said, 'I'm sure there were, and they were just as special and important to the people who loved them just as much as we loved daddy.'"
"She took out here a new princess book that the Easter Bunny brought her, sat down and read parts of it out loud under her umbrella at his grave, since I said it was a special place to talk to and remember him, and he could hear her crystal clear there."
And Antonette said she's getting assistance from Survivor Outreach Services as she and her children build their lives without Brian. Sandra Brown, SOS support coordinator, and Jin-Sook Lim, SOS financial counselor, help keep the Hornsby's connected to the Army.
"Survivor Outreach Services plays a pivotal role in keeping families of fallen soldiers connected to the Army by providing various types of supportive and financial resources on an ongoing basis," said Brown.
"Gold Star spouses, like Antonette, have very personal stories to share about their loved ones who died while in military service. Nationally recognizing Gold Star Wives Day on April 5, 2013, honored both their dedication and keeps them strong."
Antonette said she learned about the Gold Star Wives of America, Inc., an organization of widows and widowers whose spouses died while on active duty or as a result of military service-connected causes, from the SOS offices.
"They've been phenomenal as far as what services are available," she said of SOS and Gold Star Wives. "I feel very comfortable here."
The congressionally-chartered non-profit organization has approximately 10,000 members in 53 chapters spread out over 26 states. To learn more about the Gold Star Wives of America, visit www.goldstarwives.org or visit www.sos.army.mil.