Two pairs of boots, two rifles, two helmets and two sets of dog tags were displayed on stage as a community mourned the loss of two young soldiers Saturday afternoon.
The items belonged to Sgt. Nathan R. Beyers, 24, and Spc. Nicholas W. Newby, 20, both of Coeur d’Alene. The Idaho Army National Guardsmen were killed in Baghdad on July 7 by an improvised explosive device. They were assigned to the 116th Cavalry Heavy Brigade Combat Team, based in Post Falls.
Hundreds of friends, family and service members gathered at Lake City Community Church in Coeur d’Alene for the memorial, in which Beyers and Newby were remembered as dedicated servicemen who always upheld the Soldier’s Creed.
“They always placed the mission first and never accepted defeat,” said Brig. Gen. Alan Gayhart.
Sgt. Joseph Rozewicz, who was assigned to the same unit, described Beyers as selfless and always upbeat.
“The kid was always in high spirits,” he said. “He never wanted to be on anyone’s bad side. He was always happy. I loved to hang out with him.”
At one point, Rozewicz paused to collect himself and fought to keep his composure as he recounted fond memories he shared with his friends and comrades. He said Beyers and Newby were good friends.
“Those two are like brothers,” he said. “They loved to hang out a lot, play pranks on each other.”
“They’re both … my biggest heroes,” he said.
Beyers also was a dedicated husband to his wife, Vanessa Beyers, and was thrilled about the recent birth of their baby girl, he said.
“He was an amazing man,” he said. “He loved his family so much. That’s all he talked about.”
Newby was mischievous, energetic, driven and a bad storyteller who was proud of his “quirky” mustache, said Spc. Tristan Nielsen.
“He was good for advice and he was also an extremely motivated person,” he said. “Sometimes so motivated it was obnoxious.”
Beyers enlisted in January 2006 as a mechanic and received several awards, including the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Army Service Ribbon and Combat Action Badge. He was posthumously promoted to sergeant.
Newby enlisted in November 2008, also as a mechanic, although he was working as a machine gunner when he was killed. His awards include the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Army Good Conduct Medal and Combat Action Medal.
A slideshow of the two soldiers featured photos from childhood to adulthood, providing glimpses of their too-short lives. Newby’s photos show the avid musician strumming a guitar, hunting, and riding an all-terrain vehicle. In many, he’s giving two thumbs-up and displaying an ear-to-ear grin.
“He was always going,” Nielsen said. “He was working really hard on his education. Just working his tail off. I just want everybody to know he was doing what he loved.”
In one photo, Beyers sits atop a dirt bike. Others are from his wedding, of him kissing his pregnant wife’s belly, or cradling his newborn baby.
Chaplain Maj. Robert Morris said both men always set high standards for themselves and achieved them.
“They fulfilled their duty,” he said. “A challenge was before them and they met it.”
Morris called on the community to come together and urged Beyers’ and Newby’s friends and family to find comfort in their faith and continue carrying out their own missions in life without fear of death.
“I know that’s what Nick and Nate would want,” he said.
One by one, dozens of soldiers gave the two men a solemn final salute. One knelt in prayer, grasped the dog tags and, head bowed, placed a hand on the toe of the boots that will never march again.
“Freedom is not free, nor is it cheap,” Morris said. “Nick and Nate have given their all so we can live in a free place, live in a free country.”
The 116th Cavalry Heavy Brigade Combat Team is on a yearlong deployment to Iraq as part of Operation New Dawn. It has 2,700 soldiers from Idaho, Montana and Oregon. The soldiers are scheduled to return to the U.S. in September. The July 7 attack also severely injured Staff Sgt. Jason Rzepa, also of Coeur d’Alene, and marked the deadliest day for North Idaho soldiers since combat began in Iraq in 2003 and Afghanistan in 2001.