Two North Idaho members of the 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat team died July 7 in Iraq as part of Operation New Dawn when their convoy was attacked by insurgents using an improvised explosive device.
Both men, specialist Nathan R. Byers, 24, originally from Littleton, Colo., but who lived in Coeur d'Alene with his family, and Specialist Nicholas W. Newby, 20, of Coeur d'Alene, were assigned to the 145th Brigade Support Battalion, 116th Cavalry Heavy Brigade Combat Team, Post Falls.
"This is an extremely sad time for the citizen soldiers and citizen airmen of the Idaho National Guard," said major general Gary Sayler, commanding general of the Idaho National Guard.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the family members
of these fine Idaho citizen soldiers, and we will work to help and support these families with many types of assistance over the coming days, weeks, months and years."
Byers leaves behind his wife, Vanessa, and their daughter, born on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2010.
"Nathan was proud of his job and serving our country," Vanessa said in a statement. "He died doing something he loved and was such a brave person. We just had our first child and Nathan had a chance to visit us when he was home on leave in January. I told him I knew he was going to be a wonderful father. We are going to miss him."
Newby leaves behind his mother, Theresa Hart, father Wayne Newby, brothers Ryan and Nathan and many other family members and friends in both the Coeur d'Alene area and in Connecticut.
"Nick would do anything for anybody who needed help," his parents said in a statement. "He'd stick by his friends and never gave up on anybody. He had a great sense of humor, ever since he was a kid.
"For instance, once when he saw his pregnant mom drinking orange juice, he said, ‘Mom, you're going to get orange juice all over the baby!' Nick was intellectually curious and an avid reader. He was also a planner, he researched things, planned out and then followed through with all he said. He was a great musician who played many instruments, including guitar, bass guitar, saxophone and drums. Nick loved fishing, camping, road trips, learning to fly as a member of the Civil Air Patrol and wrestling with his brother. He loved thrashing his truck and then fixing it; we recall digging him out of the snow and we all smiled through it. Nick loved his family, and everybody loved him."
In the same attack, a third Idaho soldier, staff sergeant Jason Rzepa, suffered a serious leg injury and was evacuated to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.
The 116th Cavalry Heavy Brigade Combat Team, which includes soldiers from Bonners Ferry, is in the midst of a year-long deployment in Iraq, and is expected to return to the United States in September. The team is made up of approximately 1,500 Idaho soldiers, 600 from Oregon and 600 from Montana.
Byers and Newby are the first to lose their lives through what has been two deployments to Iraq.