In Memory of SGT Byron Norwood
We heard from Mrs. Janet Norwood recently. Her son, Sgt. Byron Wayne Norwood, USMC, was 25 years old when he was killed in action in Fallujah, Iraq on Saturday, Nov. 13, 2004.
We are honored that she is sharing some memories and photos of her son with us here.
Sgt. Norwood was serving as a squad leader with the Weapons Co., 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division (3/1), and was in his second deployment to Iraq. He had previously been deployed by sea in late 2002 as a member of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) which operated from the USS Belleau Wood in the Middle East. The battalion was one of the spearhead units for the assault on Fallujah and had entered the city from the Northwest on Day 1. They captured the train station and university on schedule before moving south to be involved in difficult house-to-house fighting by the end of the first week.
After a multi-stage firefight inside a house containing numerous barricaded foreign terrorists, seven Marines were wounded and required timely extraction. Byron was part of a rescue effort which entered the house to determine friendly and enemy positions so CAAT Platoon, Weapons Co. vehicles outside could fire through the walls to destroy the terrorists.
According to the Marine Corps report, "Immediately after he entered the house and cleared the first room, an insurgent engaged Marines located in a second room. In an attempt to defend his fellow Marines, he immediately returned fire at the enemy, but was fatally wounded by another insurgent who was firing from the roof.
Byron had told his family that he made the decision to "place my life in God's hands so that I can concentrate on being the best Marine I can be." His father, Bill Norwood, said Byron fiercely loved his family and friends, his country, and his fellow Marines. He most recently told his mother, "I'm doing what I have to do now, Mom. It's my turn to protect you." He was already preparing for the next phase of his life after proudly giving over six years to the Corps.
Byron was born August 11, 1979 in Austin. He graduated in 1998 from Pflugerville High School, where he was very active in the marching band, sports and drama. Upon the death of the band's director in Byron's senior year, he was selected to play taps at the memorial service.
After graduation, Byron joined the Marine Corps and was sent to MCRD San Diego in the summer of 1998 for basic training. He served in the reserves in Austin in 1999 and 2000 as well as attending college and, in late 2000, he served as a recruiter's assistant in Austin. During this time, he was promoted to Corporal.
Two months before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on America, Byron went on active duty with the Weapons Company of the Third Battalion, First Marine Regiment. A month after returning from the 11th MEU deployment, in January 2003, his unit shipped out by sea for Iraq, where he fought in Operation Iraqi Freedom I and returned home in June 2003.
After a year at Camp Pendleton, during which time he learned to speak Arabic and gained an appreciation for Middle Eastern culture, he was deployed to Iraq a second time on June 19 of 2004. He was promoted to Sergeant July 1st.
Sgt. Norwood's personal decorations include the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation with combat "V" for Valor, Purple Heart and Combat Action Ribbon as well as a number of unit and other service awards. He qualified as Expert with both Rifle and Pistol. Byron was honored by President Bush during the 2004 State of the Union Address as representing America's military and their families.
Byron is the son of Bill and Janet Norwood of Pflugerville, TX and is survived by his two brothers, Grant and Colin Norwood, sister Grayson Norwood and sister Kristen and brother-in-law David Hullum, as well as his grandparents, Jake and Jeane Aston of Houston, one aunt, three uncles, and nine cousins. Both of Byron's grandfathers served combat tours with Marine Corps units in World War II.
Last December, we lost a second soldier from Pflugerville, Cpl Yari Mokri.
Yari was a high school friend of Byron's who joined the Army after Byron's death. When he was in Iraq, he asked for something of Byron's to carry with him. I sent him a button with the Eagle, Globe and Anchor from Byron's dress blues and a HeroBracelet with Byron's name. Yari wrote to his sister (who has been best friends with our youngest daughter since 4th grade and who is still her room mate) and told her how excited he was to have the bracelet and we found out that he always wore it and was wearing it when he was killed by an IED. We understand that there is a picture of him with the bracelet on, though I have not seen it yet. I hope to get that picture and, if Yari's family gives permission, I will send it to you. (One of the bracelets I ordered recently is for us to place at Yari's grave since the original one was obviously destroyed.)
Gold Star Mother of
Sgt. Byron W. Norwood, USMC
KIA Fallujah, Iraq
November 13, 2004
Freedom Is Never Free