Byars, a Griffin native, was killed in action in the Korean War, Dec. 12, 1950, but his remains were only just recently identified and returned to the family. His homecoming was Feb. 13, arriving with escorts from Atlanta Hartfield-Jackson International Airport to Griffin by the Fort Benning Honor Guard, Griffin Police Department, Spalding County Sheriff’s Office, several other law enforcement agencies and volunteer organizations.
An Army blanket, a fresh uniform, an American flag, along with his many medals accompanied the coffin, according to the proclamation. His funeral was Feb. 16 at Oak Hill Baptist Church, and he was buried with full military honors in the veteran’s section of Oak Hill Cemetery.
Mayor Joanne Todd explained there was an error found in the proclamation the city had planned to issue at that time, and the city wanted to get it right before presenting it to the family. Byars’ youngest brother Charles along with family members were presented the proclamation Tuesday night by two of the city commission’s military veterans, Dick Morrow and Shaheer Beyah.
Todd read the proclamation which noted Byars was the middle of the three brothers, the oldest Bud, had served in World War II, returned home and rejoined the Army. Bobby, at age 17, joined the local National Guard unit in 1949, and when the Korean War broke out, both he and Bud were stationed at Fort Benning and both were sent to Korea, where both saw action. They never met in Korea and Bud made it home.
Bobby was a member of Company M, 3rd Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division, and was reported missing in action by the U.S. Army on Dec. 12, 1950, while fighting the enemy in the area of the Yalu River near the Chinese border. About three years later, on Dec. 31, 1953, he was presumed dead.
After more than six decades of uncertainty, the Byars family received word that his remains had been released by North Korea, returned to the United States and positively identified through DNA matches of two living relatives. Researchers were able to confirm with certainty that Bobby Byars was never a prisoner of war, details that were important to the family, Todd said.
Pfc. Bobby Byars was awarded the Purple Heart, Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the Korean Service Medal, the United Nations Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Korean Presidential Unit Citation and the Republic of Korea War Service Medal.
Todd encouraged all citizens to recognize the valor and sacrifice of Byars “and the freedoms we cherish because of our veterans’ service and sacrifice.”