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Joshua Byers, killed in Iraq, called ‘110%’ in career & faith

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–U.S. Army Capt. Joshua T. Byers, son of North American missionaries Lloyd and Mary Byers and a committed Southern Baptist lay leader, was killed in action the morning of July 23 in Iraq.

Byers, 29, was the son of Lloyd and Mary Byers, who have been missionaries of the North American Mission Board since January on the U.S. territory of Guam. Lloyd Byers, director of missions for the Guam Baptist Association, previously was a church planter/pastor of Foothills Community Church in Mt. Airy, Ga., and earlier served as a pastor and church planter in South Carolina, Nevada and Georgia.

Joshua Byers also was the older brother of Milam and Jared Byers, lead guitarist and drummer, respectively, for the popular Christian rock band Bleach.

Joshua was most recently a company commander assigned to Headquarters Troop, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, based in Fort Carson, Colo. He was the only person killed when a remote-controlled bomb exploded on the side of the road east of Baghdad as a military convoy of about 50 vehicles was passing by, according to Mary Byers. Seven others were injured in the incident, she said.

Byers is survived by his wife, Kim, who lives in Fountain, Colo., just outside Fort Carson. A 1996 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, he previously served as aide to the commanding general at Fort Carson, Milam Byers said.

The death was confirmed by the U.S. Department of Defense about noon July 25, but no further comment from military officials was immediately available.

Mary Byers said she and her husband were flying from Tokyo to Atlanta July 23, and got the news from their sons when they arrived in Atlanta.

“We’re just really in shock, but we certainly appreciate the prayer support we’ve already heard about through the North American Mission Board and all Southern Baptists we’ve been in contact with,” she said.

Robert E. (Bob) Reccord, president of the North American Mission Board, was among those expressing condolences.

“Just as Lloyd and Mary serve Christ knowing there may be a high price to pay, their son Joshua served our country and a cause he believed in,” Reccord said. “We grieve with the Byers family during their time of loss. They can be comforted in knowing Joshua is with his Lord and that he was serving a just cause in Iraq. Our prayers and thoughts go out to them.”

Byers was a committed Christian who pursued his faith in God with the same passion he pursued his military career, said Milam Byers, reached by phone in Nashville where the family has gathered.

“His whole life, this was all he wanted to do,” Milam said of his brother’s military career. “He worked hard to get into West Point, and when he was at West Point he worked hard to be the best there. … He always did everything 110 percent, and that’s how his walk with God was too.”

Joshua accepted Christ at age 7, Milam said, and never seemed to go through the phases of rebellion that often accompany adolescence.

“It always seemed like when there was a decision to make he always made the godly one,” Milam said. “He was very consistent in that. He took every aspect of his life very seriously. As young as middle school he always had a head to think that was much older than he was.”

Joshua also was a gifted communicator, according to his brother, with a gift for preaching that he would use during visits home on vacation and leave.

“He wanted to take advantage of that time,” Milam said. “I think in the back of his head I really do believe he was called to lead people, but in this season of his life he just knew God wanted him to be a leader in the Army and minister that way.”

It was during one visit with friends in Hartselle, Ala., while he was attending West Point, that he had an opportunity not only to preach but to meet his future wife, Kim. The daughter of Jack Redfearn Jr., pastor of West Harselle Baptist Church, she was about five years younger than him. But they kept in touch, and four years later a deeper relationship developed, Milam said. They married in 1998.

Joshua also was a gifted writer, Milam said. “He wrote poems. … His letters were always amazing. He always wanted to write a book, and he always kept a detailed journal.”

Joshua and Kim both were involved heavily as volunteers in the youth ministry at their church, Heart of the Springs Church in Colorado Springs, Milam said. He remembered how Joshua would sometimes call him and his other brother from youth group meetings on Sunday nights.

“Some kids in his youth group were big Bleach fans, and he loved the fact that he could tell them that those were his brothers,” Milam said.

During the war with Iraq, Milam said his brother understood the risks but was ready to do whatever was necessary to achieve victory.

“We kept hoping that the war would be over soon. I know that just recently he had written and said that he was worried that people over there had forgotten about them — because the media had been hailing that the war was over and we had won. … But actually the last couple of months he said we had taken more hits than in the first couple of weeks in the war when it was covered so well.”

A memorial service for Joshua Byers is scheduled for 1 p.m. July 30 in Fort Carson, Milam said. The funeral and burial tentatively are planned for Saturday, Aug. 2, at Lisbon Presbyterian Church in Mountville, S.C. Memorial gifts may be made to the Guam Baptist Association, PO Box 326008, Hagatna, GU 96932-6000.

    About the Author

  • James Dotson