Thursday, July 05, 2007

Henry Byrd laid to rest

Belen Pfc. Henry George Robert Byrd III was determined to make a difference in the world. He was a brave young soldier whose concern for others outweighed his concern for himself.

That was the picture painted in words at the Iraq veteran's funeral on Tuesday.

A much loved young man, who is described by family and friends as always wearing a smile, Byrd touched the lives of many people. A funeral service was held at Our Lady of Belen Catholic Church Tuesday morning for the fallen soldier who was later laid to rest at the Santa Fe National Cemetery.

While the community he grew up in came together to say a final farewell to one of its own, a courageous soldier, son, brother and friend, Byrd was lovingly remembered for the contributions he made to everyone he came in contact with.

Our Lady of Belen Pastor Father Stephen Schultz talked of the many who have given their lives to preserve the ideals upon which this country was founded.

"We gather this morning to offer prayer for one such soldier and for the family who mourns his passing," Schultz said.

Byrd, 20, of Veguita, fell gravely ill while on a mission in Iraq last month. His family said military officials informed them that he had collapsed while repairing a blown track on a tank that he and his fellow soldiers were in on June 18.

It was almost a week later that Byrd died in an American military hospital in Germany from complications resulting from heatstroke that caused multiple organs to shut down, his family said.

Byrd was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart.

The 2004 Belen High School graduate joined the JROTC during his freshman year, and Byrd's stepmother, Margaret Baca, said he had wanted to be in the military since he was a little boy.

His father, Henry J. Byrd II of Veguita, is a Vietnam veteran, and Byrd's grandfather was a Marine who served during World War II.

Byrd served with the 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division out of Fort Stewart, Ga.

"He was proud to follow in his father's footsteps," Schultz said during the funeral Mass. "He had a dream to drive tanks. What young boy doesn't dream of driving tanks? Henry lived that dream.

"We mourn the loss of Henry in our lives. It's like a piece of our own heart is ripped out."

But with sorrow comes healing, Schultz said, and although Byrd is no longer with his loved ones, his memory will live on through pictures and stories and he will never be very far away.

"Never forget his sacrifice or the sacrifice of so many others who have given their lives," Schultz said.

With black bands covering their badges, officers from the New Mexico State Police, Albuquerque Police Department, Valencia County Sheriff's Department, Belen Police Department, Los Lunas Police Department and Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department were present at Byrd's funeral Tuesday.

Fire and rescue units from the City of Belen, the Village of Los Lunas and the Rio Grande Estates Fire Department also showed support by attending.

A "final call" was made by the Valencia County dispatch center as the soldier's body was carried out of the church. Byrd was a volunteer firefighter at the Rio Grande Estates Fire Department before joining the military.

Following the funeral Mass, a long line of police and fire vehicles, with lights flashing, escorted family and friends to Byrd's burial site at the Santa Fe National Cemetery.

From the News Bulletin

Related Link:
Henry Byrd remembered by family

Related Link:
Henry Byrd remembered

Related Link:
Henry G. Byrd III 'died June 24 in Landstuhl Germany, from a non-combat related illness sustained June 18 while in Iraq'