George Byas

  The Journey Continues -- George W. Byas   

     My journey for Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, took me to the San Marcos-Blanco Cemetery on Post Road, to honor the memory of George W. Byas. He served in World War I, 92nd Infantry Division in France. Placing the miniature American flag by his headstone was a special privilege. The words on the government issued marker— “George W. Byas, Texas, Private, Infantry, World War I, November 2, 1892 – June 24, 1958.” I wanted to be sure that George W. Byas’s grave was respectfully decorated with the Flag for which he fought.

     All the enlisted personnel in the 92nd Infantry Division were African-American, and represented nearly all the states of the Union. Private Byas’ unit, the 349th Machine Gun Battalion, was organized in October 1917, at Camp Funston, Fort Riley, Kansas. Can you imagine the anxiety of this young recruit departing home from San Marcos on a train to Kansas; and ultimately on a troop ship across the Atlantic Ocean to a combat war zone in France where he faced German soldiers, artillery, gas and trenches.

  1. In the iconic entrance hall of the Byas’ family home on Centre Street, I felt like I was at a Shrine. Three items were on the wall: # 1. A picture of George Byas as a young soldier in uniform. # 2. A panoramic photograph of his combat unit, Company B, 349th Machine Gun Battalion, 92nd  Infantry Division annotated, “just back from France” and #3. George and ______” s marriage license. Visiting with his daughter, Mrs. Vivian Boyd, I was exposed to the spirit of her father, steeped with dignity and respect.
  2. At the end of the war, George W. Byas returned to San Marcos where he married on September 13, 1925 and became the father of five boys and four girls. His ceremonial burial flag is in possession of one of his surviving daughters, Gertrude Durham. He provided for his family through employment by the Greyhound Bus Line in San Antonio. Military Service runs deep in the family: three sons and five grandsons have served on active duty.

     This man’s journey illustrates the sacrifice of American servicemen made for "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” for all people. Let us not take for granted or forget the men who served; they deserve to be remembered with at least a moment of grateful silence. Which reminded me of Psalm 46:9-10 (NIV)----“He(God) makes wars cease to the ends of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear, he burns the shields with fire. Be still, and know that I am God, I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Jim Lanning -- San Marcos Record, May 28, 2017