“People in the world aren’t blessed with the same things,” she said. “If I have the ability to just give you one meal ... That’s nothing to me. But that’s everything to you.”
In late May, Horne graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point with 34 other black women – the most ever to make it through the school.
The entire class contained 987 graduating cadets.
During her 21 years of life, Horne has learned changing a life for the better doesn’t always require immense sacrifice. Whether bringing over-the-counter medicine to hurricane-weary Haitians, gifting an extra dollar to a fellow Texan struggling to make ends meet or welcoming a frightened child into her home with love and understanding, a simple act of kindness can make all the difference.
Showing kindness to the less fortunate has always been important to Horne, said her mother, Peaches Wilson-Horne, 55.
“Caring. Very compassionate to anyone and everyone,” her mother said, describing her daughter, the youngest of her three biological children.
Victoria native and retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Vanessa Hicks-Callaway, who earned a Bronze Star for her work during Operation Iraqi Freedom, said Horne’s graduation from the esteemed and highly competitive military academy is an honor of the highest regard.
“We are looking at young people who are the best of the best. They can go anywhere,” she said, adding, “We are talking about very high quality and caliber young people. When they make it across that stage, it is a win for our nation.”
Before being appointed to West Point, Horne said she considered attending Baylor University. But after visiting the military academy, she found herself drawn to the school’s structure and intimacy.
“You either do well at West Point or you fail. There is no in between,” Hicks-Callaway said.
But Horne is more than an academic powerhouse. She also possesses a powerful ability for compassion and as such served sometimes as the family’s voice of conscience.
Once while watching over a small Bay City recycling center normally operated by Horne and her siblings, their mother realized the youth had been routinely overpaying those who brought aluminum cans to trade for pennies on the dollar.
“People would come up with one pound of cans, and it was supposed to be 55 cents, but they were getting $2 or $3 because they needed something,” her mother said. “If they were hungry, she would order them pizza sometimes.”
Horne was the first to speak up on trips to Houston when those in need would ask for spare change.
“Really, you’re not going to give them a dollar? You’re just going to roll up your window?” her mother said, recalling her daughter’s words.
So, during high school when Horne enrolled in a hands-on class at Matagorda Regional Medical Center, she realized she held an interest in medicine.
Years later while working in Haiti after Hurricane Matthew devastated the country, that interest was further reinforced. She recalled one instance during her time there in which she found the strength to play with children eager to see her despite her fatigue from lugging bricks up a hill all day.
“Yeah we were really tired, but it was awesome,” she said.
Horne said she still communicates through social media with some children she met during that time.
At West Point, Horne found a place to cultivate that interest by seeking a life sciences degree. Nevertheless, life at the school was hardly easy.
“It tests you mentally, and it tests you physically,” she said. “It’s a make or break situation.”
She recalled the shock she experienced on her first day at the college after being allowed to say goodbye to her mother for a mere 60 seconds.
Immediately after that farewell, she was greeted with shouts and commands from a pitiless instructor.
Each highly structured day during her freshman year began at 5:30 a.m. with lights out at 11:30 p.m.
Those days were filled with classes, role calls in formation, strict time allotments for eating meals and performing chores as well as vigorous exercise.
“You run just to run,” she said.
When not running, freshman, who were affectionately known as “plebes” were required to rigidly square hallway corners and walk with their hands clenched lest they be disciplined by upperclassmen.
To girls considering pursuing a West Point education, Horne advised toughness, physical fitness and preparation would help them through the school’s challenges.
“You have to make sure this is something you want to do,” she said.
Despite witnessing other cadets crack and washout, some internal strength hereto undiscovered inside Horne made her stay.
“You wake up with someone banging on your door ... You have five minutes to brush your teeth and be in uniform,” she said. “Starting out like that, I was like, ‘Do you really want to do this?’”
She said her religious faith and personal tenacity helped her get through the hardest times. Sometimes, Horne admitted, she thought about quitting.
“I am the type of person that if you try to tell me I can’t do something, I like to prove people wrong,” she said.
After about a year at West Point, Horne was sure. She really wanted to do it.
Next, she will continue her education at Johns Hopkins University before attending medical school in her dream to become an Army doctor.
“Public service is all about helping the people who can’t help themselves. We have to have those selfless people in the world to fix all these issues that we have with race, with gender, with the poor,” Horne said. “You have to have that inside yourself. I was raised that way.”