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Gulf War vet who was baptized days before death leaves legacy

DULUTH, Ga. (BP)–“Please be careful when you baptize him. The doctor said that his back is very brittle,” Wendy Hornick said as she stood knee-high in the water of the baptismal pool, watching her husband Fred’s baptism, having just witnessed her children’s and experiencing her own.

Fred Hornick died in October at the age of 37, just days after being baptized. But he has made an impact on his church.

Hornick, a nine-year veteran of the Army and a veteran of the 1991 Gulf War, was stricken with esophageal cancer, which was suspected to have occurred as a result of exposure to chemical agents during his nine-month tour in the Gulf War. Diagnosed nearly three years ago, his cancer metastasized to his bones, causing him a great deal of pain.

The Hornick family received an invitation by Wendy’s boss to attend Cross Pointe Church in Duluth, Ga.

Because of Fred’s sickness the family had been away from church for a while, but was “looking for renewal.” Wendy visited first, and the following Sunday, the entire family — with children, Jarrod, 14, and KayLee, 12 — did, too.

Upon the family’s request, Cross Pointe Pastor James Merritt and Lance Sperring, minister of outreach, visited the Hornicks in their home. Presented with the plan of salvation, Fred, Wendy and the children accepted Christ and inquired about baptism.

“It was very obvious that Fred was very sick and barely had enough strength to be baptized,” Merritt said.

The day after his baptism, Hornick was admitted to the hospital, where he died three weeks later.

During his final weeks Hornick continued to grow weaker every day and resulted to communicating through written notes. On the morning of his death, Cross Pointe Assistant Pastor Bruce Hardy visited with Hornick and his family in his hospice room. After pulling his oxygen mask aside, Fred whispered, “Now God is on my side.”

Fred’s positive attitude regarding his cancer and his assurance of his and his family’s salvation impacted the lives of Cross Pointe members. One member in particular, battling cancer himself and scheduled for surgery, talked with Fred one Sunday at church. The conversation made a positive impact.

“Fred wasn’t scared to die anymore,” Wendy Hornick said. “He knew he was in the right place and he had peace of mind. He found comfort and he knew everything was squared away.”

Merritt pointed to Hornick’s faith during a Sunday morning sermon.

“Fred Hornick went to be with the Lord last week,” Merritt said. “[But] even in his death, he has left a legacy for his kids, so that they too, can have a refuge and a shelter with the God that he knew.”

Hornick’s daughter, KayLee, read a personal prayer during her father’s funeral:

“Lord, please take care of my father and all the people who are gathered here today.

“We all love Fred Hornick and we came here to show how much we loved this fine man.

“Lord, please end the war over in Iraq and let there be peace once again.

“Many soldiers were killed or severely hurt in Iraq.

“A lot of boys and girls are losing their dads and brothers over this war.

“Please lead these soldiers to their families; I don’t want anyone to go through what I am going through right now.

“Take care of my dad and all of those soldiers who died serving their country.”

Lance Sperring baptized Hornick and visited him in the hospital days before his death. Conveying to Hornick that if he didn’t see him again, he would see him in heaven, Hornick simply smiled from behind his oxygen mask and gave two thumbs up.

“There was no doubt in my mind he knew where he was going,” Sperring said.

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  • Luann Byrd