News: Military family members reunite in Afghanistan
Story by Sgt. Derek Carlson
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – It is not uncommon for service members to have a rich military heritage within their family. For many, a sibling, parent or distant family member can be a driving force to become a part of the armed forces.
Unfortunately this decision will often separate these families while rotating duty stations every three to four years, which is why Sgt. Maj. Mark Byrd, the sergeant major for Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 169, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), was thrilled when the opportunity to visit his son for a day presented itself – in Afghanistan.
Byrd’s son, Air Force Staff Sgt. Mark Byrd Jr., is an aircraft structural maintenance specialist, who operates out of Kandahar Airfield. The two were reunited Feb. 14 while Byrd Sr. made a day-long trip to Kandahar.
“Growing up, [my dad] was always deployed,” said Byrd Jr. “Now that I am out here and deployed, it’s nice having him here with me.”
Though Byrd Sr. is proud of his son’s commitment to the armed forces, he did not influence his son’s decision and focused on giving his children the tools and guidance for a successful life.
“Growing up we focused on being positive and doing positive things,” said Byrd Sr. “No matter what he chose to do … I just wanted him to be well-rooted, make wise decisions and be a productive citizen.”
Once Byrd Jr. made the decision to join the military, his first choice was, of course, to be a Marine like his father. However, Byrd Sr. ensured his son was making good decisions for the right reasons.
“His first choice was the Marine Corps, and just like any other decision, my question was ‘why?’” said Byrd Sr. “I told him to go talk to each branch of service and find out what was best for him and what he wants to do. I told him ‘you are already doing the honorable thing by wanting to serve your country.’ I’m not stuck on ‘you have to be a Marine because dad was a Marine.’”
Byrd Jr. is happy with his decision and said it would take an amazing career opportunity to take him away from his career in the Air Force. He has taken his father’s outlook on focusing on the positives and applied it to his lifestyle.
This outlook was also adopted by the youngest man in the Byrd family, who is currently in Air Force recruit training. And although Byrd Sr.’s career with the Marines is coming to an end in the near future, he says “there’s always a chance,” he could serve deployed overseas with his youngest son before retirement – if the opportunity presents itself.
Until then, Byrd Sr. is content with his sons carrying on the family tradition of serving their country in the armed forces.