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Marine Pfc. Sean Horn, 19, of Orange; Dies in Nonhostile Incident

June 27, 2004|David Haldane | Times Staff Writer

Sean Horn wanted to be the best man he could be.

So early last June, shortly after graduating with honors from Irvine's Creekside High School, he became a Marine.

"He went straight into boot camp," said his sister, Melissa, 21. "He knew what he was getting into. He loved the brotherhood. He gave it a lot of thought, and decided that this would make him a better man."

Today would have been Pfc. Sean Horn's 20th birthday. But his family is making plans to bury him with full military honors at a Cypress cemetery.

"We are very proud of him," his sister said. "He would have had a great life if this hadn't happened."

It is unclear exactly what happened to the young man from Orange County who, by all accounts, loved his country and family enough to risk his life for both.

He was an engineer equipment operator assigned to Combat Service Support Group 11, 1st Force Service Support Group, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Pendleton. Horn died June 19 in what military officials described as a "nonhostile incident" at Camp Taqaddum, about 150 miles northwest of Baghdad.

According to his sister, the young Marine was found dead in his bunker with a bullet wound to the head after failing to show up for a 4 p.m. roll call.

"I think it was an accident," Melissa Horn said of the incident, which military authorities say they are investigating.

"My brother was a wonderful person who had so many plans for coming home. The kid was very positive, very supportive of the other guys."

For Sean Horn, those ties began in Lakewood, where he was born and lived until age 11, when his family moved to Irvine.

Always patriotic but never very political, Horn was a talented artist who loved camping and fishing, and had long aspired to the military life. "He loved the support because it's so solid," his sister said. "The Marines don't let each other down. They are very family-oriented."

She said her brother's only fear was that he might somehow "mess up" by making a mistake. "He didn't want to let the other guys down," she said.

Horn relished graduating from boot camp, looking forward to going abroad. And after arriving in Iraq in February, his enthusiasm reached even greater heights, his sister said.

"He was extra positive," she said, "making sure to support everyone else."

She said their last conversation was a phone call about three weeks before his death. "He said he needed new coveralls," she recalled, "and asked me not to forget his birthday,"

The family didn't: It sent a birthday package containing, among other things, the requested coveralls and a silver cross from Mission San Juan Capistrano identical to one worn by his sister. "Sean found God through boot camp," she said. "He was baptized Christian and came out with a Bible in his hand."

The package was expected to arrive in Iraq by today, in time for Horn's birthday.

"I love that kid," his sister said. "I'll always love that kid. I won't make sense of this for years to come."

In addition to his sister, Horn is survived by his mother, Maryse, and father, Steven, both of Irvine. A funeral is scheduled this week at Forest Lawn Memorial-Park in Cypress.

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