On My 25th, 2020, Memorial Day, dozens of locals, family and friends came together to pay their respects and remember those service members and families that have made the ultimate sacrifice. This was the 5th Annual Justin Byler Memorial Day 5K in memory of a local soldier that lost his life in combat. Justin was a graduate of the Ballinger High School Class of 2000 and like many others felt a call to serve soon after the events of 9/11. Justin was lost to us on October 31, 2005 while on deployment to Iraq.
In 2011 the Texas Department of Transportation designated six miles of Highway 158 as the Army Specialist William Justin Byler Memorial Highway.
The Byler family gives out scholarships to graduating Ballinger Seniors in Justin’s name every year.
Fellow Army veteran and Class of 2000 graduate Chad McDuffee had the idea, in late 2014, to start a Memorial Day 5K in the memory of Justin. After talking about it with the Byler family it was decided that the inaugural 5K would take place on Memorial Day 2015. The are several purposes behind the 5K.
“When you look at the meaning behind Memorial Day you can never do enough. No amount of words or thoughts can ever replace the sacrifice made by these amazing men and women. There were several factors that moved me to initiate this 5K. The scholarship that was being handed out in Justin’s memory was being funded by the Byler family. We have found a way now that the family can still carry on his legacy without it costing them a thing and I think that is very important. I also wanted to show the family that they were not alone. There are many people that support this family and others like them and this is a chance for all of us to stand together and show our respect not only for those that have fallen, but even more importantly those they leave behind. The last reason is that I miss my friend and classmate”, McDuffee said.
Along with many locals coming to participate there were many people from out of town. College students from Abilene, Sergeant First-Class Devin Hurd San Angelo Army Recruiting Station Commander, as well as Fat Man on a Mission who documented his experience on his Facebook page doing a 5K in his 119th Texas county. Last year the Byler family was able to give out five scholarship to graduating Seniors and this year the family gave the scholarship to Julie Martinez in the amount of $1000. The 5K was able to raise $2,815 this year that will be able to go towards future graduates in coming years.
Thanks to all that were able to make it and if you weren’t then there is always next year for the 6th Annual!