Date of Birth:April 15, 1974
Date of Death: July 23, 2003 - View or Post a Eulogy
Capt. Josh Byers was killed July 23 when a homemade bomb was placed under his Humvee outside Ramadi, Iraq.
As mentioned earlier this week, we recently heard about a group at USMA that recently started a wonderful program called "Long Gray Legends." Their Mission, to "Build leaders of character through fitness, teamwork, and recognizing heroes." Every Friday, rain, snow or shine, they meet at Arvin Gym at 0530, where they warm-up, share the story of one of our fallen graduate heroes, and then break into groups to meet everyone's physical goals.
Yesterday on Friday 8/21/2021, with a beautiful sunrise, the LGL honoree was our very own CPT Joshua Byers '96. BG Shane Reeves led a contingent of 14 Classmates in this workout, including LTC Kevin Cutright (who was Josh's room dog Firstie Year and spoke before the workout). Pics of the event attached and Kevin's remarks are provided below as well.
Great job, '96! Never forget, and "Keep Moving Forward!"
"Joshua Todd Byers would have loved this event - and he would have chosen the same as you: 0530 PT to honor the fallen. He would have appreciated the vision and initiative of the cadets who have come up with Long Gray Legends. It is a way to stay grounded in the midst of the pressure here. It's also a way to remember what's behind the honor given to the military profession - we accept risk on behalf of others for precious ideals. As our class motto says, it is "For Freedom We Risk." Our loss of Josh Byers (and eleven other classmates) remind us of what that risk really entails.
I roomed with Josh for 3 semesters - which back then was fairly rare. During fall semester of our cow year, he and I were chosen to serve on the Cadet Honor Committee. So spring semester, they put us in brigade staff barracks so we could shadow the firsties we were replacing. That's how we spent the second semester of cow year and our whole firstie year as roommates. Rooming with Josh was a blast. He was upbeat, he was devoted, and he was fun. Josh's devotion went beyond his own success - he was intent on the success of those around him. Just ask the classmates who constantly stopped by our room to get their dose of Josh's energy and his help. Josh had this personality that kind of glowed in the gloom of cadet life. He had this wide-eyed, almost Chris Farley sense of humor; in fact, I remember him doing the skit from Saturday Night Live "I live in a van down by the river!" - which originally aired in 1994. Josh was also a devoted Christian. His faith mattered a lot to him. I'll always admire how his commitment did not come at the expense of his respect and love for others of all types. He was an example for other Christians who seem to forget what Christianity calls for. Josh was also a devoted professional. He branched Armor, but he still insisted on fighting for a slot to Ranger School, which involved a fierce competition. In Josh's journal about Ranger School, he wrote, "I owe it to the soldiers I lead to be as prepared for combat as possible." And, he explained that he wanted to discover his own limits "physically, mentally, and emotionally." He was convinced he would be a better leader by knowing these limits...but how many of us are scared of discovering them? Of being disappointed in ourselves or being embarrassed in front of others? Credit to Josh for looking past all that, for not letting those fears get the best of him. Josh's training prior to Ranger School paid off: he made it straight through the 62 days of suck. After his first assignment at Fort Stewart, GA, Josh sought out another challenge and opted to go to the Engineers version of the Captains Career Course at Fort Leonard Wood. While there, he earned a masters degree in engineering through a program lined up with the local university. His next assignment was Fort Carson, where he earned the position of aide to the post's commanding general. After a busy year in that job he reported to 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, working in the S3 shop. He finally got to wear his Cavalry hat. It was in that job that I had my last conversation with him. We met for lunch at his unit's mess hall. He was excited to be done with the staff job and take command so he could get back with soldiers. For Josh, leading soldiers was a sacred privilege not to be taken lightly. It was not an entitlement every Army captain should automatically receive. When our units deployed to Iraq in 2003, we ended up in very different areas - I was pretty far north of Baghdad and he was west. We both took command in June, but Josh only had his sacred privilege for a short while. He died from an IED blast the next month. I'm not sure there has been a stronger life trajectory cut short in mid-flight. I treasure that Josh did not back away from a challenge. I love that he actually chased challenges down as a life habit. And Josh did it for the right reasons and to serve the right ends. It's an important reminder that we don't come to West Point to have it easy or to have things handed to us or to enjoy certain luxuries or privileges. We come to practice the conquering of challenges -- and if we follow Josh's example, to actually savor them, enjoy them, and share them. We're better leaders when we follow Josh in this way. His last words of "Keep Moving Forward" were important in the moment he said them, and they have echoed across the years and across the challenges of his classmates, of his soldiers, and of his family. In fact, we have his mother and father to thank for elevating those words - and Josh's story - for us all. "Keep Moving Forward" - but in what direction? What would Josh have us keep moving forward to? The way we honor Josh is wrapped up in how we answer."