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No greater love: fallen Currahee hero awarded Silver Star at Fort Campbell

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Over 400 family, friends and brothers-in-arms gathered in the early morning hours Aug. 25, to honor a hero of 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division.

Specialist Jordan M. Byrd, 19, was posthumously awarded the Silver Star, the Army's third highest award for valor. The Silver Star Medal and citations were given to Byrd's wife Savanna and son Ayden, mother Roberta Pitt and father Justin Brost. Each received words of appreciation from the Currahees as they filed through to embrace the Family members.

A combat medic, Byrd was assigned to Company A "Able," 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment. He was killed during a fire fight Oct. 13, 2010 in Yahya Khel district, Paktika province, Afghanistan, while providing life-saving aid to Spc. Adam Sustaita.

The lead man while crossing an open field, Sustaita was hit in the leg by what appeared to be sniper fire. His team then began to be hit with heavy enemy small arms fire, Rocket Propelled Grenades and mortars. That is when Byrd ran across the field to treat his friend.

"Within minutes after I was hit, "Doc Byrd" was by my side, putting the tourniquet on my leg," said Sustaita, an infantryman with 1st Bn., 506th Inf. Regt.

After successfully applying the tourniquet to Sustaita, "Doc" was hit by small arms fire and the wound would take his life. For Sustaita, appreciative and grateful are words that do not go far enough because honoring Doc's courage and sacrifice will be a lifetime effort.

"It has changed my life forever," said Sustaita, holding back tears. "It has motivated me to drive myself harder, to reach deeper than anything ever has before. Not only for Doc Byrd, but for all the guys, the right thing to do is to push ourselves to be the best that we can be, in his memory."

Fort Campbell's senior leader was in attendance to present the Silver Star to Byrd's family.

"As I have travelled around the country, I have encountered some people who say that we have no heroes, while they look for them in sporting arenas, on golf courses or in theatre halls," said Maj. Gen. James McConville, commander of 101st Airborne Division and Fort Campbell. "My heroes are Soldiers like Spc. Jordan M. Byrd. Soldiers, we recognize for heroism today, Soldiers who volunteer to serve their country during a time of war and put others before themselves."

"I believe our lives are defined by the choices we make," said McConville. "Specialist Byrd chose to live a life of honor, he chose to serve his country as a Soldier in the storied 101st Airborne Division and the legendary Currahees. He chose to serve his fellow man by becoming a combat medic and on that day in October he chose to risk his own life to save a buddy. With complete disregard for his own safety, he ran through a hail of enemy bullets and placed himself between his wounded comrade and enemy fire, while he medically treated his buddy. He worked dilligently, while under fire, and placed a tourniquet and saved his buddy's life. He sacrificed so others could live and that is why he is a hero, and that is why we honor him today."

The commander of the 101st Airborne Division's 4th Brigade Combat Team, Col. Sean M. Jenkins had a sincere message for the Byrd Family and expressed his condolences and admiration for the man and hero that Byrd was.

"I know my words would fall short of the pain and suffering you have felt over these past 10 months, but please know all Currahees, active, veterans, and families; we all celebrate Jordan's sacrifice. We will not forget him, we will honor him, for young and old Currahees will always know his name," said Jenkins. "Know that your husband, Savanna, the father, the son and friend, saved the life of another human being, another Currahee. It was written in John 15:13 that 'greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.' On October 13, 2010, Spc. Byrd showed that love to his friends as he ran into the open, through enemy fire to help a friend in need. He not only did this without hesitation, but his efforts helped to save the life of his comrade."

Today we honor Spc. Jordan M. Byrd, a hero, who went above and beyond what was expected. A young man who demonstrated extraordinary valor; we can only pray that each of us can continue to honor the standard which he has so valiantly set. It is my honor to have served alongside him, he will never be forgotten, said Jenkins.

Byrd's friends and teammates spoke of his smile, love for his family and concern for the well being of others.

"We were not surprised he did this," said Spc. Michael Nicholas, an infantrymen with 1st Bn. 506th Inf. Regt. "It has been said that when he ran up there, he did it with a smile on his face. That is just the way he was, he wanted to help somebody. The whole reason he became a medic was to help others."

"He was a great young man and he gave his life to save somebody he loved," he said.

"Doc was full of energy, bright, happy all the time and always carried a huge smile with him," said Spc. David Gudmunson, Byrd's bunk mate and an infantryman with 1st Bn., 506th Inf. Regt. "He was always there for you no matter what. I don't think a single day went by that he didn't say how amazing his son was and how much he loved his wife Savanna."

Article by Sgt. Luther L. Boothe Jr., 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault)