Ramstein airman thrust into rescuer role twice hailed as life-saver and inspiration
Stars and Stripes November 13, 2023
RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — Staff Sgt. Stephen Hornik is a passenger services supervisor in the Air Force, but his track record of split-second rescues is making him look like a real-life version of a Marvel character.
Twice in the past 13 months he’s jumped into action to save lives, and his heroics cover two continents. Most recently, he was thrust into a life-or-death situation while working the night shift Oct. 4 at Ramstein’s passenger terminal.
Around midnight, Hornik, a member of the 721st Aerial Port Squadron, was in the break room when he was summoned to assist an unconscious military retiree who had collapsed and fallen face-first on the rubber mat in the building’s entryway.
Fellow passenger services supervisor Staff Sgt. Jeremiay Burns and other airmen who were first on the scene called emergency services and hooked the man up to a defibrillator, a 521st Air Mobility Operations Wing statement said.
But the man was still unresponsive and turning purple when Hornik arrived, he said.
“It was almost like a pause in time,” Hornik said. “Everyone was just standing there staring at him. ... I think everybody was kind of in shock.”
The man wasn’t breathing and Hornik couldn’t detect a pulse. He immediately started CPR.
He kept at it until base emergency medical technicians and firefighters arrived about five minutes later, he said. They took over and used a machine to squeeze air into the man’s lungs between rounds of chest compressions.
The man soon began breathing again, Hornik said, adding that in the moment, he was unsure whether his actions had been enough.
“My hands were shaking. I was just freaking out,” he said.
The first responders took him aside and calmed him down, telling him that if he hadn’t started CPR, the man wouldn’t have made it, he said. A few days later, Hornik heard that the man was awake and doing well.
CPR is taught to every airman during required basic first-aid training, but Hornik went above and beyond to get fully certified in the skill, his unit said.
The October events at Ramstein marked the second life-or-death situation Hornik encountered recently.
On Halloween night in 2022, while he was home on leave in Clermont, Fla., he saw a motorcyclist flip over a car and roll across the pavement as his helmet flew off.
Hornik and his mother, Sherry, were stopped at an intersection when the collision happened.
Hornik jumped out of the car and administered first aid to the injured man, who was screaming and hyperventilating. His head was bleeding and his arm and leg looked “cracked in half,” Hornik said.
He held the victim’s hand, reassured him and stayed with him until police and an ambulance arrived. That man also survived.
Airmen in his squadron were inspired by the Oct. 4 events and are brushing up on CPR training, Hornik said. He expressed thanks for his co-workers, who initially stepped in to help the man. He also complimented the medical personnel who handled the situation after him.
As for reprising his superhero role again, he’d rather not see any more sequels.
“I’m getting used to it,” he said. “But I wish it would stop happening.”