CALGARY -- The night before he left for his fatal Afghanistan deployment, Cpl. Nathan Hornburg expressed his passion for the mission, a longtime friend told an overflow crowd of mourners at the soldier's funeral yesterday.
Amid the sombre pageantry of the two-hour military service, Sara Leishman recalled an evening of late-night Chinese food and words from the 24-year-old reservist about a month before his death that convinced her Hornburg was the right man for the dangerous mission.
"He said, 'I'm protecting our country, I'm protecting the citizens of Afghanistan, to make it a safe place for people there, so girls can go to school,' " Leishman told about 1,000 people at the Stampede Ground's Roundup Centre.
"Nathan, you made a journey to the other side of the world with knowledge, the heart of a warrior and a sense of adventure."
Hornburg's sister, Rachel Herbert said her brother had made the world a better place by "choosing to go down the road not many people do."
Eight pallbearers from his King's Own Calgary Regiment had carried in his coffin, draped in the Maple Leaf flag and crowned with his black beret and bayonet.
Inside, mourners and dignitaries, including Mayor Dave Bronconnier, city aldermen and MLAs, milled about near a table bearing Hornburg's youthful ceramic art and landscape paintings, bookended by photos of him as a toddler and as a soldier with colleagues atop a Leopard tank last July.
The last photo of a slideshow showed Hornburg in desert fatigues waving goodbye before departing for war.
The reservist was killed Sept. 24 while he worked on a disabled tank during a firefight near Kandahar.
Fellow-reservist Sgt. Pablo Fernandez said Hornburg's death was a selfless act typical of the man.
"Under heavy enemy fire, Nathan did what only those with an iron will can do - he went forward and tried to help friends in need," Fernandez, a Calgary Sun reporter, said in his eulogy. "He lived and died like few dare."
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Soldier had 'heart of a warrior' - longtime friend