A legacy of service
Mount Royal honours 28 former students killed during combat missions
“Gear strewn in the kitchen, phone blinks thirty-seven messages and rings. Minutes later three dark uniforms, three pale faces in the driveway. No turning, no escaping, such clarity and mystery they deliver to the door. Like the elk, I stand quiet in the porch light then ask them to come in.”
Linda Loree wrote those words in a poem after learning of the death of her son, Cpl. Nathan Hornburg, in September 2007.
Nathan, a Mount Royal alum, was 24 years old when he was hit by a mortar shell while repairing a tank in Afghanistan. It was his first tour.
“Grief is such a powerful emotion, and it’s really nice if you can channel it to something,” Loree said. “Some people go underground and don’t talk to anyone for five years.
“Me, I wanted to tell everyone about Nathan. I just wanted to speak for him.”
Michael Hornburg, Nathan’s father, recalls his son leaving for Afghanistan. He said the opportunity meant a lot to Nathan because he wanted to bring opportunities to the people of the war-torn nation.
“Before he left, people in the media reminded Nathan that it was a very dangerous situation,” Michael Hornbug said.
“He replied, ‘It’s all the more reason why someone like me should be going.”
On Nov. 8, Mount Royal University honoured Nathan Hornburg and other alumni who served in the armed forces and paid the ultimate price. Twenty-eight bursaries have been dedicated in their honour to preserve their legacy. (The 28th was discovered at the last minute and will be presented next year.)
During the ceremony, Julia Pasieka received a $2,500 bursary in the name of Nathan Hornburg. She called the opportunity an honor and a privilege.
In her acceptance speech, Pasieka directly quoted Nathan Hornburg, saying: “It’s not the hope of death of people that will be a stinging blow to our planet, but it will be the death of hope.”
Michael Hornburg said the quote was recovered from his son’s laptop after his death. He attended the ceremony, and was very pleased and proud of the legacy of his son’s passing.
Pasieka went on to say she discovered her and Nathan Hornburg shared many similar values.
“I have been given a chance to continue the legacy of an individual who is no longer with us,” she said. “Someone who has walked where I’ve walked and seen what I’ve seen.”
The Hornburg family has a strong connection with the institution. Loree said she and her daughter are also Mount Royal alumni, and their continued connection to the school through the bursary was “deeply meaningful and comforting.”
She also emphasized the importance of what the bursary would have meant to Nathan Hornburg.
“He valued his education, and realized what sacrifices many students make, here as well as in Afghanistan,” she said. “A bit of Nathan and the cause he died for live on in the those students.”
The ceremony was held in Ross Glen Hall, with many notable guests in attendance, including Defence Minister Peter MacKay and Premier Allison Redford.
“Today Mount Royal pays tribute to its long, proud connection with the military,” Redford said. “It honours the many people who are connected with this institution, who served
our nation in the most selfless of ways.”
Redford said she hopes the bursaries will help strengthen the link between the armed forces and the citizens they serve.
“This is a touching and meaningful time for this institution, Calgarians and for Albertans,” she said.
Alberta’s Lieutenant Governor, Donald Ethell, also spoke at the ceremony.
“I know that Mount Royal is proud of its military connections that runs throughout the school’s history and it’s only right that we should celebrate this heritage,” he said.
Ethell pointed out Mount Royal students are free to question and to express their beliefs without fear of retaliation. He also encouraged current MRU students to keep fallen students in their thoughts as they continue their education.
“These are the types of basic freedoms that Canadian men and women in uniform have fought and died for,” he said.
Patricia Roome, director of MRU’s archives, has been working on discovering fallen soldiers who also attended Mount Royal and helped organize the event.
“I think that the only other Alberta institution that can go back to World War I is U of A,” Roome said. “We are one of the two institutions that can claim and demonstrate a long history of involvement in Canada’s wars.”