Byron Lindsey was always the kind of a guy who will  be in the hearts of those who knew and loved him -always kind and gentle, a buddy to many and basketball hero to many more. Byron was the kind of a young man who touched the hearts of many during his all too short stay on this Earth.

Edward Byron Lindsey was born on March 8. 1945  just near the end of World War II.   His parents, Edward  S. Lindsey, a long time employee of Dublin Tire and his wife, Mary Roach Lindsey, lived on Smith Street in Dublin.

"Byron was one of the best basketball players, I ever saw," said Scott Beasley, the current owner of Duncan Tire Company.  Leahman Davidson echoed, "Byron , who played for the Dexter Hornets, had a deadly accurate jump shot in basketball. He proved that on many Sunday afternoons in the old Rentz gym when we chose sides and played basketball for hours."  One fellow basketball player, Johnny Payne, himself a combat fighter in the jungles of Vietnam, praised Lindsey's athletic abilities as well as his genuineness as a human being.

"He was a very courageous young man," remembered Randall Barron.

After graduation from Dexter High School in 1963,   Byron took up advanced studies of radio in Americus, Georgia before taking a job with Southern Bell in Milledgeville.  Drafted and shipped off to Vietnam at the age of only twenty-two, Byron began his tour of duty in Vietnam three days before Christmas 1967 with the 9th Division, Co. A. 3rd Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment.

Before the end of January, during the climactic year of 1968, when more people (16,899) were killed in Vietnam than any other year,  North Vietnamese forces launched the Tet Offensive, a random, yet concentrated, series of attacks across the entire span of South Vietnam.

Just after New Year's Day in 1968, Judy Watson, Tren Watson's little sister, decided to start writing to Byron over in Vietnam.

"I  started  writing to Byron over in Vietnam so he could hear from friends back home," Judy recalled.

In his first letter back to Judy, he wrote that he was he was anxious to hear from Tren since he had joined the Army.

"I am stationed at Rach Kien.  It is just a base camp built up on a big rice paddy.  It is almost 100 degrees and it isn't even summer yet.  Every place you go, you see coconuts, sugar cane, grapefruits and bananas. When we go out we walk in mud and water up to our waist and sometimes we have to cross a stream by using a rope.  I can't stand it over here, but I guess I will just have to put up with it," Byron wrote.

A few weeks later, Lindsey reported that all was about the same, but it was becoming cold at night.  He rejoiced that he had finally heard from Tren.

On St. Patrick's Day 1968, Byron, in his fourth month of his tour, regretted that he was sorry that he had missed the snow back home.   He hoped that Tren would never have to come to Vietnam.  Byron and Judy continued to write letters back and forth with the usual comments, salutations and wishes. Byron usually closed most of his letters with "Always, Byron."

On April 28, 1968, Lindsey wrote that he was stationed some four miles from Saigon, but that his unit was constantly being moved around as the monsoon season was in full force.

As their letters crossed the Pacific by airmail, Byron and Judy became closer friends.  Byron sat down on June 25, 1968 and wrote yet another letter back home to Judy.  They both had expressed concerns about their brothers and their safety if they were ever in combat.

Byron concluded his letter, "I am doing ok, I guess.  I have made it for six months and five days now. Only about five more months and 25 days left. You take care of yourself. Write when you can.  Tell your mother hello for me.  Always Byron."

   That same Saturday back home in the States, Elvis Presley was rehearsing for the filming of his 1968 Comeback Special.  Byron, William Kitchin and  Kinny S. Leon-Guerrer of Hayward, CA were a trio of close friends and members of the same squad.  SP4 Kitchin decided not to go into the field near Go Cong  that day.  Byron and Kinny did go.  They never made it back alive.  William, devastated at the loss of his two best buddies, castigated himself constantly that if he had gone, he too would have been killed.

The letter was airmailed from the Army Post Office on June 29, 1968.  Byron's last letter arrived in the mailbox at Judy's Hudson Street home the following Thursday.  Judy had already gotten the bad news.

In a letter to the Lindseys, Kitchin wrote, "I just wanted to let you know how badly I felt about your son's death.  Byron was my best friend over here, and in fact, considering everything we have gone through together, I would say the best friend I had in the world.  We went on R&R together and had planned to get together when we got home.

"We both realized that one of us might not make it home and Byron told me many times he didn't worry about it because he knew how much it would hurt his family and he knew, and I know that he would want you all to accept this in the best way you can," Kitchin continued.

Kitchin continued to console Mr. and Mrs. Lindsey by telling them what a Christian boy their son was.  Although of little consolation to his grieving parents, Kitchen wrote, "Maybe this is the Lord's way of getting him out of the h l, we have been going through here."  Acknowledging his helplessness to comfort Byron's parents, Kitchin kept repeating that Byron did not want his parents to grieve, but to accept his death as a part of life.

Tren Watson, who was sent to Vietnam a few months after  Byron,  expressed concern about, asked for and was granted permission to escort his friend's body back home.  Judy shares that on every July 4th,  she recalls that she and her mother went to Warner Robins Air Force Base to pick her brother up on his arrival after the long and painful journey home to Dublin.

"Byron was one of the nicest young men you could ever meet.  Always kind and respectful to everyone," Tren recalled.  In their teenage years, they  became good friends, doubled dated some and did those kind of things young boys do that they didn't tell their parents about," Watson added.

Byron had a red 1964 Chevy II Super Sport car which  his dad bought him.  The last time Tren talked with Mr. Lindsey, he still had that car parked in his garage.

"His parents requested I escort his remains home for the funeral, which  I was honored to do so.  One of the hardest things in my life was to go back to Vietnam after one of my best friends was just buried.  Just like the song says, "the good die young, " Tren concluded.

After a military funeral at Saxon Street Baptist Church,  SP4 Byron Lindsey was laid to rest in Dublin Memorial Gardens. For his actions during the war, Byron received a Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Medal, and the Government of South Vietnam Service Medal.

Judy Watson, now Warren, was deeply saddened by the loss of Byron.  Forty-six years later she  continues to keep flowers on his grave and keeps his memory alive. "I have told my children that once I am gone to continue to put flowers for me." Judy said.

To help her cope with the loss which she and Tren experienced as a result of the war, Judy started a memory album at the time of Byron's death.

"It never crossed my mind that by keeping these letters as I have, it gives "a voice" to Byron's own words from that time.  I'm thankful the Lord led me to do that," Judy remarked.

She keeps all of these letters, journals, clippings, photos and newspaper articles  to remember her special friend Byron.  She frequently relives and cherishes her own memories to remind her of a time, long, long  ago  when there was Mama and Daddy, and Tren.  And, when she really needed a true friend to write to -  to lift up and to lean on - there was always, Byron.

       Remembrances - Moving Vietnam Wall, Dublin, Georgia, August 15, 2014 - E. Byron Lindsey


Chevy Blue said…
The Lindseys were close family friends. Craig, Byron's brother, was my best friend. We lived 3 blocks apart on Smith St. Craig, Jeff Shinholster and I put many a mile on the streets of Dublin walking and riding bicycles. Mr. and Mrs. Lindsey practically raised me. Good people. Loved them all.