Integrity lessons in the sand

Keith Byrd stands with fellow Marines during his service in Desert Storm. This photo was taken in February, 1991, a few days into the ground offensive, Byrd said.

The honor and integrity Keith Byrd learned in the U.S. Marine Corps have carried through his entire life. They also carried him through Desert Storm during the first four months of 1991.

“I still use them and they’ve become part of who I am, “ he said “The idea of honor and integrity — if you’re asked to do something, you do the best you can. You get it right the first time.”

Byrd was a member of Delta Company, First Battalion First Marine Division. During Desert Storm, he was a lance corporal. He was the communications chief for his company, made up of about 130 Marines. They took amphibious tractors around Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, securing areas.

“The country looks all the same,” Byrd said. “It was flat, sandy. Vertically growing vegetation appeared to be illegal. It was the most non-descript landscape I’ve ever seen. The only thing that broke up the view was the curvature of the earth.”

The most action he saw, Byrd said, was on the second day when they secured an occupied position and took about 860 prisoners.

Byrd was responsible for making sure everyone in his group could communicate via radios.

“I had to keep on things,” he said. “I didn’t get the luxury to be able to sit and relax. There was always something to do.”

Byrd kept everyone in contact, no matter what. It earned him a commendation: a Navy achievement medal with combat distinguishing device.

Byrd had enlisted with the Marines during his senior year of high school in western Montana. Aside from fighting in Desert Storm, he also had two tours in the north Pacific.

After he was discharged, he became a police officer in Lewiston,?Idaho. He then transfered to Pendleton and has worked for Tribal Police for the past five years. He is a K-9 officer and works with Chinook, a narcotics dog.

His time as a Marine has made the stresses of civilian life seem easier, Byrd said.

“It’s really easy to sort out what is trivial and what is not,” he said.?“A lot of things I see people getting tweaked out about, in the scheme of things, doesn’t make a difference.”

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