Wednesday, August 17, 2011


There really isn’t a collection of superlatives that you could string together that would do justice to Capt. David Hortman, a beacon of all our hopes for the future taken from us last Monday in a training accident at Ft. Benning.
He represented the best of us, distilled and concentrated in the body of a young man endowed with immense ability and yet tempered by a disarming humility. I knew him, and my life is the richer for it.
His life was set so firmly on a trajectory of increasing achievement, and all who knew him lived with the certainty that here was a young man who would change the world.
That he most certainly did in the 30 years he lived among us.
But for those of us who remain and are now contemplating a future where we can’t see that greatness grow ever greater, where we can’t talk to him or hear him laugh or see that dazzling smile – we are left with the unanswerable question: why?
I am certain that David would be uncomfortable with the praises others and I are paying to him and his memory. But even more than this, I am certain he would point all of us to the God in whom he had an unassailable faith. He would remind us that God has a plan for every life and that every moment of every life is a gift.
I don’t know why God decided that David and fellow pilot Stephen Redd had done with their missions here, but I am sure they were greeted with the words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
In circumstances like this where such promising lives are cut off seemingly prematurely, I can only think that sometimes God is so pleased with the service of such men that He calls them to his side all the sooner.
With the loss of such men as these, who can argue that our community, our state, our nation does not pay a heavy price to safeguard our freedom? There is no distinction between losing such as these in combat versus losing them during training. Such men are our heroes whether they fall to a rocket on a hillside in Afghanistan or are claimed by mishap amid the pines and scrub of south Georgia.
David Hortman remains a leader, and the most fitting tribute we can pay to his memory is to try to live by the same principles of compassion, faith and selfless service that made him such a beacon of promise and achievement. He shows us what is possible if we live up to our highest natures.
I realize that my words offer cold comfort to David’s family and to the people of this community this marvelous young man touched. In closing I offer the words of John Donne from 400 years ago as he lay in his sickbed contemplating the meaning of a tolling bell. He expresses so eloquently how we all should feel at the tolling of the bells for David’s passing.
All mankind is of one author and is one volume. When one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book but translated into a better language, and every chapter must be so translated. God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice, but God’s hand is in every translation; and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again, for that library where every book shall lie open to one another…”

Jay King can be reached at (864)237-4154 and at

1st. Lt. David Hortman in March 2006 shortly after he completed Ranger training at Ft. Benning.

(written by my friend Jay King)


  1. Such beautiful words. . . so, so sad, but happy in that he has gone to be with God.

  2. Oh dear Kelli, I am so touched by this writing! Hearts are broken while being so proud! These young men and women sacrifice so much for our FREEDOM and I am thankful to all serving, who have served and those who are training to serve! God keep this young Man's memory alive for all the world to see his greatness! BIG HUGS to you and this family!

  3. Surely God himself put his fingers to the keyboard as this was written.

    I am overwhelmed. I read it, and then I sat and stared at that handsome young face and cried. I finally did all that I can do and prayed again for his precious family.

    And once again, I have the full understanding of Paul's passage, "...and may the peace of God, which passes all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."