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Byers graduated from West Point.

'It was an honor for him to serve'

Fort Carson captain died in ambush near Baghdad

By Dick Foster, Rocky Mountain News
July 26, 2003

COLORADO SPRINGS - Josh Byers had wanted to be a military officer all his life, his best friend in high school recalled Friday.

On Wednesday, 29-year-old Capt. Joshua T. Byers, with Fort Carson's 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, was killed in an ambush west of Baghdad. Attackers detonated a bomb as his vehicle passed. Seven others in the convoy were wounded.

Byers was the 13th Fort Carson soldier to die in Iraq since its troops deployed in April. Eleven were members of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment.

"He was a great friend to have, one of those guys who would do anything he could for you," said Beau Elsfelder.

Even when they attended high school together in Sparks, Nev., Byers had a military career in his sights, Elsfelder said.

The son of a Baptist minister, Byers was student body president his senior year and battalion commander, the highest ranking officer, of his high school ROTC corps.

"He had certain things he wanted to achieve and was focused on those," said Elsfelder. "His goal was to go to a military academy and he graduated West Point."

Byers received offers from all three service academies - Army, Navy and Air Force.

The grandson of a Navy man, his first choice was the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, but a visit there changed his mind, said high school counselor Bob White.

"He went to the Navy interview first, but when he came back he said, 'There was something about their honor code that was really surprising. It was so lax.' " White said.

"Josh was a person with integrity who felt strongly about right and wrong, and he told me, 'You know, I'm going to decline the Navy and accept West Point. I'm going Army because of their honor code,' " White said.

As a young officer, Byers became a paratrooper and one of the Army's elite Rangers.

He visited Elsfelder four years ago to catch up on old times and to introduce his wife, Kim, who now lives in Fountain.

Byers was happy with his life and career.

"Oh gosh, yes," said Elsfelder. "It was going exactly as he wanted. He was getting ready to become a tank commander."

That was the job that eventually took Byers to the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment at Fort Carson, a fast, heavy regiment laden with armor.

Byers was the commander of "Fox" Troop, a company-sized unit of about 100 soldiers equipped with tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles.

They were in a convoy of about 50 vehicles near Ramadi, 60 miles west of Baghdad, when they were attacked Wednesday, the Army said.

Byers' parents, Mary and Lloyd Byers, who are working as missionaries in Guam, received the news from their two other sons, Milam and Jared, when they arrived in Atlanta on Wednesday for a North American Mission Board conference and family visit. They were in seclusion Friday.

White had not seen Byers since he was a student at West Point, but said he had left a lasting impression.

"I get a lot of kids that go to the academies because they think it's prestigious or it's cool. For him it was, 'This is training for my life. This isn't a game. This is what I want to do.' It was an honor for him to serve," White said.

"You'd wish all of our officers would be that way, or all of our politicians in Washington would be that way," he said.

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Copyright 2003, Rocky Mountain News. All Rights Reserved.