By Sgt. Keegan Daniel CostelloJanuary 24, 2019
Few understand heroism like American Soldiers do, but being heroic doesn't always require a battlefield, some battles take on a much more personal nature.
Hurricane Florence made landfall in September and ravaged the Carolinas with floods and 100 mph winds; it left many families homeless and penniless. Even during the holidays, its effects were still seen in empty, water-logged houses and molding heaps of belongings piled on the side of the road.
"With Christmas approaching, families not only had to worry about where they were staying, but also about their children having a Christmas to enjoy," said Army Spc. Joseth (Joey) T. Horne, an Unmanned Aircraft System Operator Squad Leader with 1-10 Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, 10th Mountain Division (LI). "So, I brainstormed an idea to help give back to my local community."
When Horne couldn't come home during the hurricane because of his Army training, he thought of a plan to give back to the community during his holiday leave. The inspiration came from his role models, Julius Peppers and Stephen Curry, famous sports athletes who donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to support Hurricane Florence victims.
"I will probably never be able to donate on that level," said Horne, "but I can have that same type of impact on my local community. I play basketball, just because I don't make a million dollars doesn't mean I can't help the community also."
Horne spent his Christmas break helping his friends and neighbors in the local area around his home town, Harrells N.C., by helping organize a basketball fundraiser. With the help of his two brothers; Tony Horne, Jr., a Wallace, N.C. Firefighter; and William Ward, a Marine Corps Veteran, they created the Cross-Over Ministries Hoops for the Holidays Basketball Tournament.
"The idea was to hold a Christmas tournament that allowed participating players to not win prize money, as most tournaments do, but to donate toys and basketballs to be given to local children affected by Hurricane Florence, so that the children can enjoy Christmas," said Horne.
To play in the tournament cost $10 while anyone could come watch for a dollar admittance charge. Seventy-five players attended in eight teams, Horne's among them. Not content to sit on the sidelines, Horne joined in the tournament with his own team, the Carolina Blackout, who have played together for years. His teammates travelled 190 miles to support him.
"There is a brotherhood between us that distance can't separate," said Horne. "I wanted them to be a part of the vision and they wanted to help my cause. I'm forever grateful to them."
In the end his team went undefeated and won the tournament. They raised $1,338, which was spent buying brand new basketballs, footballs and soccer balls to be given to local children and schools.
"Anytime Joey does something, there is a meaning behind it," said Ward, "there is a mission.
Following the tournament and purchasing the sports equipment, the brothers invited 20 children from local schools to pick out a brand name ball of their choice. Ward recalls one little girl in particular who smiled from ear to ear as she reached for a Stephen Curry basketball.
"It just made her whole Christmas," said Ward. "The mother was crying; we did it all for the child's expression, to give them something to smile about even though they lost everything."
Horne believes that being a Soldier means more than defending the freedom of our nation, it means caring for our communities and acting as role models for the children who live there. He plans to come back next year to revive the tournament, so he can raise more money and touch more lives.
"I can't replace a home, but I can replace the love for something by helping these families," said Horne.