Captain Joshua T. Byers Gives Ultimate Gift

U.S. Army Captain Joshua T. Byers, formally decorated for his military excellence and known among those closest to him for his deep commitment to faith, family and country, was killed in action in Iraq, Wednesday, July 23. Bleach band members Milam and Jared Byers seek to honor their brother along with family and friends.
Following one of the greatest successes of the war on terrorism with the death of Saddam Hussein’s sons, Captain Byers was on route near Baghdad when his vehicle was struck by a remote-controlled bomb killing him and severely wounding others.
Assigned only 40-days prior to his death as the company commander to Fox Troop, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, based in Fort Carson, CO, Captain Byers was an Army Ranger and did special operative missions. The Cavalry unit in which he served is the most decorated in the Army.
“Josh was our hero,” says his youngest brother, Jared. “He risked his life everyday and would not have had it any other way. Josh loved his family more than anything in the world, and he loved his country. I know that he felt a calling from God for his service, and God made him a hero, not just in his death, but his whole life.”
Early in his life, Captain Byers knew he wanted to be in the military. After joining the ROTC program in high school, attaining the highest rank possible, Commander, as well as being named high school class president, Byers later attended the prestigious United States Military Academy (USMA) at West Point, graduating in 1996 with high honors.
Following graduation from USMA, Josh completed Airborne and Ranger Training. His first post was at Fort Stewart, GA from where he was deployed for six months to Kuwait in 1998. He and his wife, Kim, then moved to Fort Leonard Wood, MO where he completed his Officer Advanced Course training and received a Masters in Engineering degree from the University of Missouri Rolla, graduating with honors at the top of his class. The couple then moved to Fort Carson, CO and Josh was assigned to the General’s staff. He soon became Aide-de-Camp to Commanding Major General Charles Campbell.
“General Campbell called our parents this week to tell us how much he loved Josh and said that there was not a better soldier anywhere,” says Milam Byers. “There have been numerous reports about how Josh’s actions have saved many lives. We have been told that one time he saved 100 soldiers that were in harm’s way. Another soldier had a family member call Kim to let her know that Josh saved his life three times! Josh would tell us ‘I know I’m on the front lines too much, but I love my troops, I love my men and I love my country. I’m going to do all I can to make sure they come home safely.’”
In a Colorado Springs Gazette feature that ran July 26, Captain Byers’ former commander, Lt. Col. Toby Green was quoted as saying that Josh was “universally loved in the squadron…Josh was a great pick-me-up all the time.”
“His dream was to become a company commander of a Cavalry Unit,” says Jared. “While in Iraq, he became company commander of the Fox Troop, one of the best Cavalry units in Iraq with 140 troops under his command. He was so proud to be chosen to be commander of this unit. He also did a lot of the volunteer work on his own to help his country, risking his life everyday.
“While in Iraq, he told us how a child whose father was just killed was crying for her mother,” continues Jared. “Josh scooped the girl into his arms and held her safe until he could locate her mother. Another time Josh went out into a minefield to rescue an Iraqi boy. A fearless soldier respected by his troops, Josh also loved children. He and his wife were hoping to have children of their own when he returned from Iraq.”
The Gazette feature also quoted Captain Byers’ wife, Kim, saying, “In every letter he would write about how much he loved command. It was his dream. It was what he felt he was born for. He would say, ‘I love my soldiers: I would do anything for them.’”
As Bleach members, who all loved and respected Josh, considered canceling the current Bleach tour to give the family time to grieve, brothers Milam and Jared realized that Josh would not have wanted the band to stop touring.
“Josh would have told us to carry on,” says Jared. “He would go on and on about how proud he was of us. ‘You are my heroes,’ he would say. He was Bleach’s No. 1 fan. Before he left for Iraq, he made me promise to keep taking care of business with the band, as he took care of business in Iraq. He thought of everyone in Bleach like his brothers. He even made Sam [Bleach guitarist] promise to take care of his little brothers while he was gone.”
“One of the ways we want to honor Josh is to not let his story be forgotten,” says Bleach member Sam Barnhart. “Over the last few weeks, he said that he was worried about us here in the states forgetting about our soldiers. Many of us think that the war was over and won when our troops reached Baghdad, but Josh reminded us that, really, the war had just begun and that brave men are laying down their lives everyday.”
Sharing that story on the road, Bleach decided to continue its touring, albeit doing acoustic sets instead of their usual full rock ensemble, where possible. Guitarist, Milam, and drummer, Jared, while temporarily off the road to tend to family, will soon rejoin the band with a renewed mission to honor the memory of their hero, Captain Joshua T. Byers.
Prior to Wednesday’s news, Bleach had already decided to dedicate its new album, due to release nationally in October, to Josh and his Fox Troop. Milam had also already written a song inspired by Josh that will be featured on the album. Josh further sent a photo of himself in Baghdad with the word BLEACH written with black tape across the face of a Hussein painting. The band plans to feature the photo in the album artwork.
Giving up his life at 29-year-old Captain Joshua T. Byers’ last and greatest gift fell on his mother’s birthday. Captain Byers is survived by his wife of 5 years, Kim, his parents Lloyd and Mary Byers, who are missionaries to Guam, and brothers Milam and Jared.
Memorial services for Captain Byers are scheduled July 30 at 1:00 p.m. in Fort Carson, Aug. 2 in Mountville, SC, and Aug. 10 in Reno, NV, at the church he attended during his teen years through high school graduation. The military will provide 21 gun salutes at the services for the fallen hero.
Contributions can be made to the Byers’ family at any Academy Bank, Air Academy National Bank or Armed Forces Bank location. Memorial gifts can also be made to the Guam Baptist Association, PO Box 326008, Hagatna, GU 96932-6000.
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