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Utah soldier killed in Afghanistan awarded Silver Star

Published: Saturday, Sept. 17 2011 6:23 p.m. MDT

Ayden, the son of Army Pfc. Jordan Byrd, touches his father's picture. Byrd's family recently attended a ceremony in Kentucky, home of the 101st Airborne, where Byrd was awarded the Silver Star for bravery and courage in action. Byrd was killed in Afghanistan on Oct. 13, 2010.

Family photo

GRANTSVILLE — Nearly a year ago, 19-year-old Army Pfc. Jordan Byrd was shot and killed in Afghanistan while helping one of his fellow soldiers who had also been shot during combat. His family recently received a Silver Star awarded to him after his death.

For all the honor and glory behind being awarded the Silver Star, his family would give it back in a minute if it meant another second with Jordan Byrd.

“We think about him every day,” Jodi Steinfeldt, Byrd’s aunt, said. “You’d think as time goes on, it would get easier, but I think it’s gotten harder.”

Byrd was married for less than a year. He was stationed in Fort Campbell, Ky., and was an Army medic with the 101st Airborne in Afghanistan. His deployment was pushed back about a week so he could be there for the birth of his son, Ayden.

He had been in Afghanistan less than a month was he was killed on Oct. 13, 2010, while helping another soldier who had been shot on a battlefield. Byrd ran hundreds of yards during a firefight to help the soldier, who lived.

“They said he was just calm, collected, like it was in a classroom,” Scott Pitt, Byrd’s stepfather, said.

Pitt and other family members came together Saturday afternoon in Grantsville to share how proud they are of Byrd’s sacrifice.

“Pride is just a small part of what we feel for Jordan,” Steinfeldt said.

Last week, the family went to Kentucky, home of the 101st Airborne, to attend a ceremony for Byrd where he was awarded the Silver Star for bravery and courage in action. It is the third-highest combat military decoration awarded to a member of any branch of the United States armed forces for gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States.

They were able to meet some of Byrd's military friends, including the man whose life he saved.

“We also heard he saved three other lives before that we, the family, didn’t even know about,” Steinfeldt said.

Pitt said it was great to meet his military family. Steinfeldt agreed. “Coming face to face with them and seeing them and being able to hug them and hear their stories, I think, it was the beginning of a healing process for both families, like his military family and ours,” she said.

Of course, they heard other things about Byrd. “We heard some good stories, some that we won’t discuss right now,” said Pitt while laughing.

A little laughter can go a long way in times like these, especially when thinking about Byrd’s young wife, Savanna, and his 1-year-old son Ayden, who he spent about a week with before having to leave for war.

In fact, it’s a picture of Ayden touching his dad’s picture that brings tears to everyone’s eyes. “It’s just hard to put into words what they give up that we don’t realize over here, you know? Until it hits you at home,” Steinfeldt said.

The Silver Star will always be a reminder. “This is for Jordan,” Pitt said. “He earned it.”

This past year was a tough one for Byrd's family, especially because all the holidays, like Christmas, Easter, July Fourth, were the first holidays without him. They're hoping things will get easier at some point, but right now, with the 1-year anniversary of his death next month it's still pretty hard.

A scholarship has been set up in his name with the Tooele School District.

Byrd’s family finds comfort in knowing he won’t be forgotten.

E-mail: acabrero@desnews.com, Twitter: ksl_alexcabrero

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