Roger Lee Byus
Army Private First Class Roger Lee Byus was born on March 23, 1949, the son of Mervin Claude Byus, Jr., and Alma Ruth Call Byus of Winfield, Putnam County, West Virginia. Mervin and Alma’s family consisted of brothers Ronnie Delane, Donnie Ray, Thomas (Tommy), and Kevin (deceased) in addition to Roger, and sisters Shirley Jean (“Midge”) and Ruth Ann. Roger was raised and educated in Putnam County. He attended Black Lick School, a one-room elementary, and went on to Hurricane Junior High and Hurricane High (1965-1968), where he played football. He was a member of the Black Lick Baptist Church. Even after more than forty years, Roger’s sister Ruth Ann Maynard still thinks of him all the time and says she “could talk forever about him.”
Roger enjoyed hunting, fishing, riding motorcycles, and all winter activities. Prior to his being drafted into the Army, he was employed by Union Carbide at Institute, West Virginia. In September 1966, he married Judy Elaine Dillon, who died in an automobile accident eight days after their marriage. On October 20, 1967, Roger married Carolyn Sue Allison.
Pfc. Byus was inducted into the U.S. Army on March 20, 1969, along with his two best friends, William Gillespie and Keith Grant. Roger completed his basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky. A member of the elite 11th Armored Cavalry (Blackhorse Regiment), 2nd Squadron, E Troop, he was sent to Vietnam in October 1969. On November 24, while on a volunteer mission in Phuoc Long, South Vietnam, his troop encountered enemy forces. His armored tank suffered a hit of friendly fire, and Pfc. Byus was dead upon arrival at a base hospital. In 2000, Ruth Ann Maynard attended a reunion of his battalion, met two of the men who were serving with him, and learned more of the details of the incident—more than thirty years after it happened.
For his service, Pfc. Byus received a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart, and other medals. In 2011, the West Virginia Legislature authorized the naming of a bridge (located on a new section of Route 35, crossing Route 34 at Poplar Fork, Putnam County) in his honor. Ruth Ann Maynard notes that the bridge is within a mile of where Roger was born and raised and says she “goes out of her way just to see the bridge and the sign.” She believes the Vietnam War was a political war that really didn’t accomplish anything; nevertheless, she has persevered in her fight to keep alive the memory of those who perished there while serving their country.
Information provided by Ruth Ann Maynard, the sister of Roger Byus. Article by Patricia Richards McClure
West Virginia Archives and History welcomes any additional information that can be provided about these veterans, including photographs, family names, letters and other relevant personal history. For more information contact Constance Baston at (304) 558-0230.
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