Tucson Soldier Killed in the Line of Duty - Tucson News Now

Tucson Soldier Killed in the Line of Duty

By Dan Marries KOLD News 13 Weekend Anchor/Weekday Reporter

The military hasn't confirmed his death yet, but officials say 21-year-old Army Specialist Thomas Byrd's name was on the manifest of an assault vehicle that was destroyed when a roadside bomb blew it up over the weekend near Ramadi, Iraq.

All five soldiers inside the Bradley Assault Vehicle were killed, but the military won't confirm who died until they positively identify the remains in the wreckage.

By all accounts, Tommy Byrd was the kind of guy everyone wanted to be around. He lived his life to the fullest, and for those who knew and loved him, the news of his death has left an emotional scar that may never heal.

"He's a hero. Tommy Byrd is a hero in my book," says an emotional Santa Rita High School wrestling coach Dan Montano. There was no fighting back the tears for Montano as he recalled fond memories of Byrd, who graduated from Santa Rita in 2003.

Montano said, "He had to work for everything he had, but his one goal was to make it to the state championship. And his last match he fought and he fought, and when it was all over he could barely walk off the mat and he gives me a big ol' hug and he hugs coach and he tells us 'I made it to the state championship' and it's just something you never forget."

With a strong urge to win and succeed, assistant wrestling coach Matt Lott says Byrd lived his life with discipline, integrity, and honor. "He had a way about him that made other kids want to be like him. The underclassmen, when he was a senior, truly looked up to him."

A leader by example, his wife and high school sweetheart, Mykel, says it's no wonder he joined the military where he was proudly serving his country. Mykel said, "He was a brave man and he was full of joy and love and he did what he did because he wanted to protect everyone and he just was very proud of the job he did, and he just had this huge heart of gold."

Now there's a missing place in the hearts of those who knew Tommy best. "I wear this red band in honor of Pat Tillman that says 'never forget,'" Coach Monotonous says. "Well now this red band has a lot more meaning and I will never forget him, and neither should Tucson."

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