The Calgary reservist killed in Afghanistan had no regrets, his family said Wednesday in a public statement, adding they want Canadians to know Cpl. Nathan Hornburg was a leader and a warrior.
Hornburg, 24, was killed by a mortar shell Monday afternoon as he fixed a track that had fallen off a Leopard tank, becoming the 71st Canadian soldier to die in Afghanistan.
His family said Hornburg, who grew up in the southwest Calgary neighbourhood of Glamorgan and had extended family in Nanton, Alta.,told his mother before he left that he loved life and regardless of the outcome would have no regrets.
"He had a warrior's heart, never afraid to lead from the front, and encourage those behind him to be brave in the face of adversity," said the statement.
"In the end, what Canadians need to know about Nathan is that he was a man of character, a man of purpose, a leader of men, a warrior, a student of the world, and the best of all of us."
Hornburg's family asked that in lieu of flowers, people send donations to the Calgary Waldorf School that he attended.
Hornburg's death has shaken the King's Own Calgary Regiment, which has only 85 members. Four reservists from the group, including Hornburg, left for Afghanistan just last month. Nine more are slated to go on the next rotation.
"Nathan was an inspiration to us. He kept us motivated through hard times," said Master Cpl. Jamie Good.
Hornburg was a mechanic who left his job and volunteered to go on this deployment.
"We all know each other very well and it really hits home and there are a lot of people who are very saddened by the loss," said Lt.-Col. Rick Coates, the regiment's commanding officer. "We were really hoping that this really wasn't going to happen but it did."
'He died a hero'
Several of the reservists at a news conference in Calgary on Tuesday said Hornburg inspired them to join the regiment and he was well aware of the dangers of going to Afghanistan.
"People started getting tours, we had actual war stories to tell and Nathan couldn't wait for his," said Cpl. Bonnie Critchley.
Cpl. Clayton Lepine, Hornburg's former roommate who also went to high school with him, said his friend wanted to put his skills to good use.
"I know Nathan went to Afghanistan, he went there to go help people," Lepine said. "He truly believed what he was doing and he died a hero."
The flags at Calgary City Hall were lowered to half-mast in Hornburg's honour Wednesday. All other civic buildings will lower their flags on the day of Hornburg's funeral.