Reed High Grad Killed In Iraq

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A graduate of Reed High School in Sparks is among the latest casualties of the war in Iraq.

Capt. Josh Byers, 29, was killed Wednesday when the convoy he was riding in was ambushed near the town of Ramadi, about 60 miles west of Baghdad, family members said. Seven others were injured.

The Army ranger and paratrooper was a company commander in the 3rd Cavalry Regiment and was most recently based at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, Colo. He was deployed to Iraq in April.

The death of the U.S. Military Academy graduate came on his mother's birthday.

His mother, Mary Byers, said her son was sitting in the passenger seat of a Humvee when two men hiding in roadside bushes triggered an explosive device.

"You're telling yourself,'This can't be happening,'"she told the Reno Gazette-Journal. When Josh Byers left for Iraq, he told his mother not to worry.

"He kept saying,'Mom, the worst will be over when I get there,'"she said.

But she said she knew from his subsequent letters that her son was in danger.

"He'd done a lot of night missions,"she said."Him being a ranger, he got used to doing a lot of things."

Mary and her husband, Lloyd Byers, both church missionaries in Guam, learned of their son's death when they arrived in Atlanta on Wednesday for a conference and family visits after flying from Tokyo.

The couple's two younger sons, Milam, 26, and Jared, 21, who live in Nashville, met them at the airport.

Mary Byers said the Army first informed Josh Byers'wife, Kim, who told Milam and Jared Byers.

When Mary Byers got off the airplane and saw her sons, she sensed something was wrong.

"They greeted us, but they just didn't come up to us,"she said."They were standing back. You know how crowds are when you come off a plane. They wanted to tell us when it was a little more private.

"Our middle son put his arms around us,"Mary Byers said."We knew before he said it."

A native of Anderson, S.C., Josh Byers moved with his family to Sparks in 1989, in time to start the second semester of his freshman year at Reed.

"He was a proud Southern guy,"Beau Elsfelder said of his high school friend."He was a very approachable person. He'd do anything for you, that's for sure."

Lloyd Byers, a minister, started a church in Sparks. The family moved back to South Carolina in 1995, when Josh Byers was at West Point.

Reed counselor Bob White met Byers on his second day on the job.

"He came into the office and introduced himself,"White said."He said,'My goal is go to an academy. I'm a junior. I'm going to need your help.'"

White said as a senior, Josh was accepted at all three major military academies _ Army, Navy and Air Force. White said he chose West Point because he thought its rules of conduct were the strictest.

"He said,'Even though I want to go into the Navy, I'm going into the Army. Their honor code is better,'"White said.

"He was the nicest, politest kid you'd ever want to meet,"he said.

Byers is the third soldier with northern Nevada ties to die in Iraq.

Marine Lance Cpl. Donald Cline, who also attended Reed, and Marine 1st Lt. Fred Pokorney of Tonopah were killed during the early days of fighting in Iraq.