Large bouquets of red and white flowers and a neatly folded American flag provided a fitting backdrop on Sunday, as the Aberdeen community gathered Sunday to pay tribute to Ken Byrd.
Byrd, 66, a Town Commissioner and retired colonel in the U.S. Air Force, died unexpectedly at home on Wednesday, June 26.
“This is a celebration of the life of a father, a friend, a fallen soldier, and a man of God,” said Pastor Stoney Locklear, of Turning Point Worship Center.
A U.S. Air Force Honor Guard offered military honors during the service while, outside the church doors, Patriot Guard Riders kept a silent vigil.
Byrd was the son of a career Air Force officer and graduate of The Citadel in Charleston. Upon graduation, he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the United States Air Force, initially in the Air Force Reserve and then on active duty.
He was deployed to Desert Shield/Storm and was later assigned to the Pentagon. While serving at Scott Air Force Base, Byrd was selected as the first non-flying commander of Tuzla Air Base, in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Pastor Randy Thornton recalled conversations with Byrd about his time overseas. When he arrived at Tuzla, there were no facilities set aside for military chaplains or worship services.
“He decided to create a place of prayer for these soldiers. Many of them were facing life-threatening situations,” Thornton said. “He took a building that was riddled with bullets, a place where people had been killed, and made it a place where chaplains could meet and create a little chapel.
“For him, on his watch and under his command, he knew people had to trust in the Lord,” he added. “He took a bold step.”
Thornton said it was Byrd’s faith that guided him.
“He wanted to lead his men and point people in the way of the Lord,” he said.
Following his military retirement, Byrd worked in the private sector as a consultant and settled in Aberdeen, his wife’s hometown.
In addition to volunteer work with The Citadel’s Alumni Association, serving as a district director, Byrd was also involved in local politics and community interests.
Locklear said Byrd’s dedication to service — to his country and his community — was inspiring.
“Let us leave encouraged about what we can do to bring about positive change. He left a legacy here that can follow.”
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