1st Tank Bn. Marine leads spiritually

30 Sep 2004 | Sgt. Robert E. Jones Sr.

Exhausted after returning from a convoy with 1st Tank Battalion, Staff Sgt. Lamar J. Byrd kneels down in front of a metal cushioned fold-up chair in the Camp Fallujah chapel. He lowers his head and clenches his hands together.  Out of a humble heart, he opens his mouth to utter a compassionate prayer of thanksgiving. “Heavenly father, I thank you for…,”said Byrd, a.k.a. Minister Byrd. 

Walking further into the chapel, greetings of his Bible study class express of love and concern.  “Brother, you are welcome to come and grab a seat inside the ring of chairs,” another Marine said.

It was a Tuesday night, but to those who gathered in the chapel, it was an opportunity to offer up praises to God led by Byrd in a combat zone.  Byrd said he had got to this point in his life due to, “steps ordered by God.”

Byrd is known to touch many hearts of his men within his unit, 1st Tank Battalion, 1st Marine Division.

“I grew up on the streets,” said the 5-foot-11-inch Marine.  “Living in an environment with guns and drugs was causing me to become a product of that environment.  I thought that was the only way to live,” said Byrd.  “Coming from Detroit and being raised in the ghetto, I felt I was just trying to find my way in life. Due to situations I put myself in, I started to develop a gang mentality.

“I came from a Baptist church, but I really did not know about a personal relationship with God,” recalled Byrd.  “I thought by doing good things, doing right by people or just being a good kid was all I had to do in life, but that was far from the truth.”

The Corps did not just increase the maturity in Byrd, but also steered him in the direction of righteousness.

“I had enough sense to join the Marine Corps.  I knew that college was something I could not accomplish at the time due to my thinking,” said Byrd.  “My mom wanted me to go to college. 

Momma, never fully knew the person I was at the time.  In her eyes, I was an angel.”

“The Marine Corps really had an impact on me,” said Byrd.

Byrd stood upon the yellow foot prints of Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Nov. 13, 1990.

Byrd’s relationship with God began thousands of miles away from Detroit.

His first duty station was Okinawa, Japan.  There he met a Marine that they called Lance Cpl. Mack, who would come around to pray for him and his friend at the barracks.”

Because of a Bible study, Byrd’s life would take a 180 degree turn in the positive direction.

“Mack asked me, ‘Do you want to have a Bible study?’  I said no but my friend who saw I was trying to make a change convinced me to go along with it.

He ministered to us out of John 4:1-28, and when he had finished he said to me and my friend, ‘Do you want some of that living water?’  That is when my friend and I were saved together.”

“After that day my demeanor was like night is to day,” said Byrd.

The gift to minister the word of God was birthed in him with the unfortunate death of a loved one.

“One day, I was in Bible study and the Lord told me in my spirit that my grandmother was going to pass away and that I would have to preach a message from 2 Timothy 4:7,” said Byrd. 

Two months later she had passed away.

“Shortly after the Lord spoke to me and said, ‘You are going to be a minister,’” said Byrd.  “I did not care what people had said, God said it.”

After being saved for six months, Byrd was licensed under his church in 1992.  In 1994, he went through the ordination service.  In 1996 he signed up for Sacramento Bible College and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Theology in 1999.

The instructors go anywhere in the world that students are enrolled, to administer test and teach lessons.

Byrd’s purpose here is to help fight a war and do the Lord’s will.

“Sure, I’m on call for all the natural things I must do.  I’m the first to let my command know that when there is a convoy going out, put me on it,” said Byrd. 

Those that have been in his company gave testimonies about the man they believed him to be.

“I watched him, and I think he is confident in the word of God,” said Capt. Thomas E. Thies, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, command chaplain.  “I think he is a great spiritual leader.”

A Sunday service attendant shared encouraging words about Byrd.

“Every time I see him in passing, he is always upbeat.  But on Sunday services, I just see the spirit of the Lord all over him,” said Lance Cpl. Mario Capetillo, I MEF, staff judge advocate clerk.  

Byrd now teaches Bible study alone on Tuesdays and Thursdays and Gospel services on Sundays.

Byrd stressed the support of his wife Latrice and two daughters, Lael, 11, and Anaiah, 10. 

“I have a wonderful blessed family.  I am so thankful for them.”

Bending over in his chair and lowering his head, he took a breath, looked up to me, and said, “Sometimes we say, ‘Well God, what do you want me to do?’  Now I’m able to see what my mission was and still is.”