Casey Byers – Sergeant, United States Army

NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense
No. 597-05
June 13, 2005

DoD Identifies Army Casualties

The Department of Defense announced today the death of two soldiers who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.  They died June 11, 2005, in Al Taqaddum, Iraq, when an improvised explosive device detonated near their military vehicle.

Killed were:

Specialist Casey Byers, 22, of Schleswig, Iowa.  Byers was assigned to the Army National Guard's 224th Engineer Battalion, Ottumwa, Iowa.

Sergeant First Class Neil A. Prince, 35, of Baltimore, Maryland.  Prince was assigned to the Army's 2nd Battalion, 17th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colorado.

16 June 2005:

Both the 224th Engineer Battalion's commanding officer and Co. B's commander on Wednesday praised Specialist Casey Byers' role with the unit.

Byers, of Schleswig, was killed Saturday when an explosive device detonated under his vehicle. He was the first member of Co. B to be killed while in Iraq. Another member of the unit, Spec. James Migues of Ottumwa, was wounded.

Captain Doug Post, the commanding officer for Co. B, said the unit is trying to pull together after Byers' death.

“Everybody here at B CO 224th EN BN are doing an acceptable job, and are getting through this hard time by pulling together and helping each other with whatever that soldier needs,” Post wrote in an e-mail to The Courier. “Everybody here misses Secialist Casey Byers a lot, he was a world class soldier, one that will be missed for his abilities as well for his funny nature, his smile, and the ability to make people laugh.”
Lieutenant Colonel Todd Jacobus, the 224th's commander, called Byers in an e-mail a “super-man type soldier.”

“He worked hard and he played hard. He was the kind of guy you would want at your side when the going got tough. His Squad members loved him like a brother; they would do anything for each other,” Jacobus wrote.

“Specialist Byers was very proud to be a Soldier; you could tell that by the way he walked, talked, and looked. He was very fun to be around. If you look at the photographs that his Squad members have taken with Specialist Byers – he was ALWAYS in the middle of the picture, almost like they gathered around him.”
Jacobus noted that Byers was eligible for promotion to sergeant and predicted the promotion would be made posthumously.

Lieutenant Colonel Greg Hapgood, the Iowa Army National Guard's public information officer, confirmed that Byers will be promoted.

Hapgood said Byers' family is still working on the details for his funeral.

Migues is back in the United States. He was evacuated to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany after being wounded.

“Specialist Migues is currently at Walter Reed Medical Center, and I understand that he is doing well,” Jacobus wrote.

An Iowa Army National Guard soldier killed after a roadside bomb exploded in Iraq will be buried this week.

Services for Spc. Casey Byers, 22, of Schleswig, are scheduled for 11 a.m. Wednesday at the Company C 1st-168th Infantry Iowa Army National Guard in Denison.

Byers was killed on June 11 when a bomb detonated beneath his Humvee along a supply route south of Ramadi.

An Iowa Guard spokesman has said the convey had halted after a bomb exploded, and that two more bombs exploded while soldiers then worked to secure the area. The third bomb exploded directly underneath Byers' vehicle, killing him and a sergeant and wounding a third soldier.

The spokesman said this was the second time Byers was deployed. He enlisted in Company C, 1st Battalion, 168th Infantry, out of Denison, in December 1999. He was reassigned to Company A, 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry, which was deployed to Egypt from July 2003 to January 2004. He joined the 224th Engineer Battalion in October 2004.

Byers graduated from Ar-We-Va High School at Westside in 2001.

Funeral Arrangements for Iowa Soldier
Monday, June 20, 2005

Funeral arrangements are in place for an Iowa soldier.

Specialist Casey Byers died in Iraq earlier this month. Family and friends will hold services this Wednesday at eleven a.m. It takes place at the National Guard armory in Denison, Iowa.


His remains will be moved to Arlington National Cemetery at a later date.

The Schleswig soldier was killed by a bomb that exploded under his humvee on June Eleventh.

June 21st, 2005- A Schleswig family is now mourning the loss of two sons. Memorial services will take place this afternoon for Casey Byers, killed in Iraq earlier this month. At the same time his family must make arrangements to bury another son.

19-year-old Justin Byers, Casey's younger brother, was killed in an accident near Vail last night. That's in Crawford County, just southeast of the Byers hometown of Schleswig.

The state patrol says Justin Byers was hit by a pickup as he walked out of a ditch along Highway 30. The accident remains under investigation.

Meanwhile, family and friends will remember Specialist Casey Byers this afternoon. He was killed when the humvee he was riding in hit a roadside bomb on June 11th.

The funeral home handling arrangements for Casey Byers says a visitation and funeral service will take place as planned. The visitation is being held today at two,at the Iowa National Guard Armory in Denison. Casey Byers' funeral is scheduled to take place tomorrow at the Armory at 11 am.

Funeral Takes Place Wednesday For Iowa Soldier
Brother Of Soldier Dies Monday
22 June 2005

DES MOINES, Iowa — Funeral services are scheduled for Wednesday in Denison for an Iowa National Guard soldier from Schleswig.

Specialist Casey Byers was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq on June 11, 2005.

This was his second tour of duty overseas.

His funeral is at 11 a.m. at the National Guard armory in Denison. Burial of his cremated remains will be at Arlington National Cemetery at a later date.

The western Iowa family who lost a son in the war in Iraq has lost another son in a traffic accident.

The Iowa State Patrol said Justin Paul Byers, 19, of Schleswig, was killed Monday night when he was hit by a pickup truck near Vail. Troopers said Byers was walking out of a ditch along U.S. Highway 30 when he was hit. The accident is under investigation.

The Crawford County Sheriff's Office said Justin Byers is the brother of Spc. Casey Byers.

Justin was a member of the Army Reserves out of Sac City. He had just learned that his unit was called into duty, set to mobilize in July then deploy to the Middle East in the fall.

Much of his family learned of his death as they were on their way to a visitation service for his brother.

There are a lot of questions from people in Denison at this point. No one knows why Justin Byers was walking from the ditch onto the highway. There was no car parked nearby and no house in the area.

The family has not yet decided on funeral services for Justin Byers.

Family loses both sons within nine days
Justin Byers was hit and killed by a truck.
His brother, Casey, was killed by a bomb in Iraq.
Courtesy of the Register
June 22, 2005

Denison, Iowa – Ann Byers of Schleswig sobbed loudly as she received hug after hug at the Iowa National Guard armory Tuesday. In a little more than a week, she had lost both of her sons.

The visitation Tuesday was for her oldest son, Sergeant Casey Byers, 22, who died June 11 south of Ramadi, Iraq, when a bomb detonated under his armored Humvee.

Then Monday night, the unthinkable happened: Her younger son, Justin “Paul” – who had been the family spokesman following his brother's death – was hit and killed by a truck.

“I can't believe the people can be standing up there,” Schleswig Mayor Carlton Petersen said of Byers' parents, Ann and Bill, who stood through a six-hour visitation Tuesday. “I don't even think it's soaked in yet, the second one.”

Justin Byers' death came just weeks before his own military unit, the U.S. Army Reserve transportation company of Sac City, was slated to be mobilized, said Lt. Col. Gregory Hapgood, a spokesman for the Iowa National Guard. The unit is scheduled to leave for Iraq in the fall. Family members declined to comment Tuesday, referring all questions to Hapgood.

“All things considered, they're doing as well as can be expected,” Hapgood said of the Byerses, whom he described as a tight-knit family. “This is just an absolute tragedy. The average family can't possibly understand how you can deal with this and stay intact.”

Justin Byers, 19, was struck by a pickup truck just after 9:40 p.m. Monday, one mile west of Vail on U.S. Highway 30, said Iowa State Patrol Trooper Chuck Downing.

Downing said Byers came up out of a north ditch. He said the driver of the truck, Mark Schurke, 42, of Vail, was unable to avoid hitting Byers, who was the only pedestrian there. Byers' vehicle was not near the accident site, and the closest house was at least half of a mile away, Downing said.

“When I went out this morning, the neighbor boy, he came over and told me,” said Dale Crane of Vail, a town of about 450 residents. “It's terrible for the folks. And the guy that hit him, we knew him.”

Schurke, contacted Tuesday by The Des Moines Register, was upset about the accident. “It's really bothering me,” he said, declining to say more.

An autopsy on Justin Byers was completed Tuesday, but officials were not releasing results.

The Byers family has lived in Schleswig, a town of about 850 residents, for four years, Mayor Petersen said. Flags flew at half-staff Tuesday in Denison and Schleswig. Tents and picnic tables from the country club were set up outside for visitors to the Byers' home on U.S. Highway 59.

“I just grieve for the family,” said Janet Gritten of Odebolt, a family friend. She said she wasn't surprised that the Byers decided to proceed with Casey's visitation and funeral, despite Justin's death. “They needed to honor Casey. Casey was a hero, and he deserved to be honored.”

Casey Byers, who had an infant daughter named Hailey , was remembered Tuesday as fun-loving and the class clown among 32 classmates who graduated from Ar-We-Va High School in 2001. His funeral will be held at 11 a.m. today at the Iowa National Guard armory in Denison. He was the 28th Iowan to die in Iraq since the war began in March 2003.

“He was really fun . . . trying to look up girls' skirts, just always being a joker,” said Ashley Laubscher, 22, of Vail, who said she met Casey when she moved to the area in the fourth grade.

“Casey lived for today,” said Barry Bergamo of Denison, a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2504. “He was a good kid. Full of energy. If I was in charge of the unit, I would want more Caseys.”

On Tuesday, two soldiers guarded Casey's flag-draped coffin as a line of family and friends filed into the warm, dark room at the armory to pay their respects. Two tables displayed photos of the smiling family of five, which had tragically been reduced to three – the parents and sister Jennifer.

“I gave my sympathy and remorse for Casey, and I asked them about (Justin), and they said that today was Casey's day,” said Lawrence Thelen of Vail. “They've got a lot on their shoulders right now. One's bad enough, but two?” Casey's cremains will be inurned soon at Arlington National Cemetery.

“He died in combat. He was doing his job, protecting others,” Bergamo said.

Funeral arrangements for Justin Byers were still pending Tuesday.

Death of soldier's brother ruled suicide
22 June 2005

VAIL, IOWA – Authorities have ruled that the death of Justin “Paul” Byers, the brother of a soldier killed in Iraq, was a suicide.

Justin Byers, 19, of Schleswig, died Monday night after he was hit by a pickup truck when he walked out of ditch one mile west of Vail on U.S. Highway 30.

The Crawford County medical examiner announced the death was ruled a suicide on the same day Byers' family held a funeral for his brother, Sergeant Casey Byers.

Casey Byers was killed in Iraq on June 11, 2005, when a bomb detonated under his armored Humvee. The funeral was at the Iowa National Guard armory in Denison. He was to be buried later at Arlington National Cemetery.

Justin Byers, a member of the U.S. Army Reserve transportation company of Sac City, was upset about his brother's death and that his military unit was scheduled to leave for Iraq this fall, said Dr. Dennis Crabb, Crawford County medical examiner.

The circumstances at the scene of the accident led officials to conclude that Byers' death was an “intentional act,” Crabb said. No alcohol was found at the scene, but a toxicology report wasn't yet available.

A letter Byers wrote for his brother's funeral was read at the services by Casey Byers' brigade commander, Colonel Tim Orr.

“If I could say anything to him, it would be ‘Yes, Casey, I'm exactly like you and I stand here today proud to say it,”‘ Justin wrote. “I will not cry for my brother because I know he would not want me or any of you to.”

23 Jun 2005:

Siouxlanders are in a state of mourning as they say a final goodbye to a Siouxland soldier.

The funeral for 22-year-old Army Specialist Casey Byers was held Wednesday morning in Denison, Iowa. It was a very difficult time for family and friends who still can't believe he's gone.

“We were all pretty close with Casey, he gave me a call last week, telling me how exited he is to get home and see his daughter,” said friend Jake Miller.

For Miller that last phone conversation is making it hard to accept the fact his friend is gone. It was June 11 when a roadside bomb exploded under the Humvee Byers was riding in just outside of Ramadi, Iraq. While hundreds were at the funeral in Denison, friends are trying to remember the good times they shared.

“He (Byers) was the funniest guy to be with, he was so good at being crazy and I loved hanging out with him. He was an awesome guy,” Miller added.

Byers received full military rites at the service and his family was presented with his American flag. There was a even a group of veterans on motorcycles. They were from a group called “Run for the Wall.” They say they wanted to be there now that Byers has gone on to a better place.

Dave Kittle of the group said, “We just want to let them know that people still think about him. And that their son is a hero.”

Friends say they are proud of Byers and that he believed in what he was fighting for. The awards Byers received throughout his service to the Army were presented to his family at the service and he was also promoted to sergeant at that time.

Byers will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

In a little more than a week, Ann and Bill Byers lost both their sons. One died in combat in Iraq; the other was struck and killed by a pickup a few miles from home.

 Sergeant Casey Byers, 22, a member of the 224th Engineer Battalion of the Iowa National Guard, died June 11, 2005, south of Ramadi when a bomb exploded under his armored Humvee.

Justin Byers, 19, who was scheduled to leave for Iraq himself this fall with an Army Reserve unit, was killed Monday night near here.

Even more devastating news came Wednesday, about an hour before Casey Byers' funeral began in Denison: Justin's death was ruled a suicide.

Crawford County Medical Examiner Dennis Crabb said Justin was upset about his brother's death and his own upcoming deployment.

Because of his brother's death in combat, however, Justin Byers would not have been required to accompany his unit to Iraq.

Evidence at the accident scene and the way Justin had been acting led investigators to conclude that he purposely stepped in front of the pickup, Crabb said.

Justin had acted as family spokesman after his brother died and had written a letter he planned to read at Casey's funeral. When the funeral was held as scheduled Wednesday, Colonel Tim Orr, commander of the 2nd Brigade, 34th Infantry Division, read it instead.

‘I'm exactly like you'

“I will not lie to you – I was always fighting with my brother, and we never got along,” Justin wrote. “My mom said we fought so much because we were very much alike.”

Justin recalled that he and his brother joined the military to make money for college but then realized they had a greater cause: defending freedom.

“The military turned us from trouble-makers and little immature kids to respectful men,” his letter said.

Justin said he would not cry for Casey because he knew that his older brother had died for a cause he was proud of. But he expressed regret that he never got to say goodbye or apologize for their sibling battles.

“Yes, Casey, I'm exactly like you,” Justin concluded.

Tears flowed among the more than 600 people attending Casey's funeral at the Iowa National Guard armory here.

“If there's any regrets, you didn't get to see, hold and touch your precious daughter Hailey,” the soldiers' father, Bill Byers, told Casey in a statement read by the Rev. Chris Burtnett. Hailey was born 5½ months ago.

The family has many supporters in this stretch of rural Iowa about 100 miles northwest of Des Moines.

“I just grieve for the family,” said Janet Gritten, a family friend. She said she wasn't surprised that the Byerses decided to proceed with Casey's funeral despite Justin's death. “They needed to honor Casey,” she said. “Casey was a hero.”

Lawrence Thelen, another well-wisher, said he spoke with the young men's parents.

“I gave my sympathy and remorse for Casey, and I asked them about (Justin), and they said that today was Casey's day,” he said. “They've got a lot on their shoulders right now. One's bad enough, but two?”

The timing of the departure of Justin Byers' unit for Iraq had not been decided, said Teresa Smith, a unit administrator with the U.S. Army Reserve in Sac City near here.

Smith said Justin Byers would have been covered under the Army's “sole surviving son or daughter” regulation. If one or more children of a family have died in military service, the sole surviving sibling can request a discharge or non-combat duty. Smith said Justin and his parents had been notified about the rule.

Pain after loss

Rachel Weinstein, a bereavement specialist in San Jose, California, said people often have suicidal thoughts after the loss of a loved one. “They can't imagine the pain ever going away because the situation is permanent,” she said.

Casey Byers was the first Iowa servicemember killed in Iraq or Afghanistan whose remains will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery outside Washington. His funeral ended with a song by country singer Trace Adkins, written from the perspective of a soldier who will be laid to rest at Arlington.

“I'm proud to be on this peaceful piece of property,” the song blared out to Byers' family and friends. “I'm on sacred ground and I'm in the best of company. I'm thankful for the things I've done. I can rest in peace; I'm one of the chosen ones. I made it to Arlington.”

25 June 2005:

Death of soldier's brother ruled accidental

DES MOINES, IOWA – When Army Specialist Paul Justin Byers stepped into the path of a pickup just two days before the funeral of his brother, Sergeant Casey Byers, a medical examiner suggested his death might have been suicide.

It was an accident, the Crawford County medical examiner ruled Friday.

Byers, 19, of Schleswig, was killed Monday night on U.S. Highway 30 near Vail. His 22-year-old brother was killed June 11 in Iraq when a roadside bomb exploded.

Crawford County Medical Examiner Dr. Dennis Crabb told reporters earlier this week that the teenager's death was a suicide, “but then I backed off a little bit because I talked to a trooper and he was a little upset that I talked to all these people.”

On Friday afternoon, Crabb met with the Iowa State Patrol to review additional evidence.

“It is the conclusion of the Crawford County medical examiner that this incident was, and shall be, considered to be an accidental death,” Crabb said.

Iowa State Patrol Trooper Chuck Downing said the investigation was continuing. Telephone messages left for the driver of the truck, Mark Schurke, 42, of Vail, were not immediately returned.

Adam Schoenseld, 17, of Schleswig, refused to believe that his best friend committed suicide.

“It had to have been an accident,” Schoenseld said. “He wouldn't want to hurt people and you've got to know if you're going to do that you're going to hurt people.

“His mom said if he planned it he would have said goodbye,” Schoenseld said.

He thinks Byers may have been out drinking with friends Monday night, was “just messing around and he ended up on the side of the road there.”

“He was probably drunk and he was upset,” Schoenseld said.

Schoenseld said Byers looked up to his older brother and wanted to go to Iraq to help people. He was a member of the U.S. Army Reserve transportation company of Sac City.

In a letter written before his death, Paul Byers said he joined the Army, like his brother, to get money for college, but soon learned there was a greater cause at stake and was proud to represent his country.

The letter, meant to be read at his brother's funeral, was read by Casey Byers' commanding officer, Col. Tom Orr.

“If I could say anything to him, it would be, ‘Yes, Casey, I'm exactly like you and I stand here today proud to say it,” the letter said. “I will not cry for my brother because I know he would not want me or any of you to.”

Paul Byers' funeral was scheduled for Saturday. Casey Byers' funeral was held Wednesday. He was cremated and his remains will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

“He was a really good guy and I looked up to him a lot,” Schoenseld said of Paul Byers. “I just wish he could be here today talking to us.”

Basu: Iraq, two brothers and two deaths
June 26, 2005

Justin and Casey Byers were ordinary northwest Iowa brothers who fought because they were alike, pushed the boundaries because they were young and joined the Iowa National Guard because it paid.

Within nine days, Iraq claimed them both.

It claimed Casey directly when a bomb exploded under the specialist's armored Humvee south of Ramadi on June 11. And it claimed Justin at home in Iowa when he deliberately stepped in front of a moving pickup truck June 20, distraught over his brother's death and his own upcoming Iraq deployment.

Justin was 19. Casey was 22.

Casey had a military hero's funeral Wednesday. His remains will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Justin's will not be.

Casey's death was random. Justin's, under the circumstances, made tragic sense.

Small towns across America are dotted with the empty spaces left by loved ones who never made it back from Iraq. Each young life cut short, each family left to grieve, each pastor, friend and relative struggling to put a positive message into the void tells part of the war's impact back home. But the Byers' family's double burden in a state that has disproportionately lost its young men in Iraq, is as painful a reminder as you are likely to find of the ripple effects.

Casey Byers was the 28th Iowan to die since the war began. Friends described him as the life of the party, outspoken, someone who made you laugh. He leaves behind a 5 1/2-month-old daughter he'd never met.

In a statement read at his brother's funeral, Justin had written that the military turned them both from troublemakers and “little immature kids” to “respectful men.” That's what military service is supposed to do. Casey Byers had voluntarily signed up for his second deployment in Iraq. Everyone said he was proud to serve.

But people who knew Justin told police he was upset about his impending deployment. He could have requested and received a discharge because of his brother's death. But would he trade on his brother's death to save his own life?

Every soldier killed in the line of fire is described as courageous, heroic, self-sacrificing. But that leaves little room for any private angst lurking under the bold demeanors. Some of those soldiers are scared young men more comfortable with video games than Humvees and armaments. Some have a zeal about the mission, but others are there only because they were ordered to go, needed money for college, had limited career options. Some were approached by recruiters when they weren't sure what to do next. One Iowa casualty, 21-year-old Spc. John Miller of West Burlington, signed up for friendship, people who knew him said. He was a night stock clerk at Wal-Mart.

Under the No Child Left Behind Act, schools must give military recruiters access to students' phone numbers and addresses or risk losing federal funds, although families may opt out. Teachers around Iowa have complained about their students getting repeat unwelcome phone calls and strong-arming visits from recruiters.

And now, with enlistments falling short, the Defense Department is contracting with a private marketing firm to supply it with a database on high school and college students, including their grade-point averages, their ethnicity and what subjects they're studying.

A Washington Post article that followed Casey Byers' platoon in Ramadi told of the fear, survivor's guilt and homesickness soldiers suffer. One was so stressed, he had to stay behind at camp during missions. Another shot himself in the head. Hundreds of soldiers are treated for combat stress every month in Iraq, it said, and about 17 percent will later suffer from some form of post-traumatic stress disorder.

For Justin Byers, the trauma came ahead of the deployment.

On an online message board to Casey Byers, some notes were a painful reminder that these young men were barely into adulthood. One said, “I'll always remember you as the ‘responsible' one in our little group of troublemakers. Rest in peace, dawg.”

I couldn't find a message board to Justin Byers.

Iowa brothers to be buried together at Arlington National Cemetery
13 July 2005

Two Iowa soldiers from Crawford County who died recently will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. 22-year-old Sergeant Casey Byers of Schleswig was killed last month when a bomb exploded beneath his armored Humvee while he was taking part in mission in Iraq. Byers' brother, 19-year-old Specialist Justin “Paul” Byers died about a week and a half later when he was struck and killed by a pickup truck after walking out of a roadside ditch near Vail.

The family has learned that the brothers will be buried next to each other in Arlington National Cemetery.


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