COCHISE, AZ, US
SPC, COMPANY A, 2D BATTALION, 69TH ARMOR, (2 MEF), FORT BENNING, GA
10/15/2005, AR RAMADI, IRAQ
A 21-year-old soldier from Tucson has been killed in action while serving in Iraq, authorities said. Military officials confirmed Tuesday that Army Specialist Thomas Byrd was one of five soldiers killed Oct. 15 when their assault vehicle was blown up by a roadside bomb in Ramadi, about 70 miles west of Baghdad. Byrd, who was based in Fort Benning, Ga., was a 2003 graduate of Tucson’s Santa Rita High School.
“I thought he was going to come home and we would grow old together,” said his 18-year-old widow, Mykel Byrd. “I honestly never thought this would happen to us.”
The couple married 18 months ago in a courthouse ceremony in Tucson while Thomas Byrd was home on leave. Though she worried about her husband’s safety, Mykel Byrd said she understood and admired his decision to join the service.
“He didn’t do it because he had to, he did it because he wanted to,” she said.
When he left for Iraq in January on his first deployment, “he went believing that he was going to make a difference,” Mykel Byrd said. “He wanted to give the (Iraqi) people the same freedoms we have. He always put other people before himself. He had a huge heart of gold.”
At Santa Rita, Thomas Byrd was a favorite on the wrestling team.Don Montano, the school’s wrestling coach, said Byrd had a sense of humor that cracked up his classmates, a gift for making quirky observations about everyday events.
“It was a great season when he was there, because he would keep us laughing all the time,” Montano said. “It’s just so hard to believe this happened to someone like Tommy.”
Mykel Byrd said her husband’s funeral will be held in Tucson, though details are not complete. Thomas Byrd also is survived by his parents, Michael and Julia Byrd, and a 15-year-old brother, Michael Jr.
“I am so proud of my son. I am just bursting with pride,” Julia Byrd said. “He is a hero and he will be missed by many.”