Berea road named in honor of Vietnam veteran

·3 min read

May 28—BEREA — Captain Hugh M. "Mac" Byrd Jr. never got to come home from Vietnam, but the veteran was honored with a sign unveiling in his hometown of Berea on Thursday morning.

Captain Byrd flew a small Cessna aircraft nicknamed "Bird Dog" as part of the 1st Aviation Brigade, 220th Aviation Company during the Vietnam War. On January 9, 1969, Byrd and his aircraft went missing — his remains were never found. He was survived by his wife Elaine Seales Byrd and his daughter Scott.

The Captain Hugh M. "Mac" Byrd, Jr. Memorial Highway will cover a portion of Kentucky Route 21. Specifically, between mile points 10.80 and 12.80 along KY 21 — from the bridge over Brushy Fork Creek eastward towards Berea City limits.

Rolling Thunder Kentucky 5 arrived at the Berea City Hall early on Thursday morning to place American flags and POW/MIA flags around the building. A ceremony paying tribute to Byrd kicked off at 10 a.m., with Berea Mayor Bruce Fraley serving as emcee.

Allen Rice of Rolling Thunder Kentucky led the group in invocation and prayer before Brooke Danielle Way sang the national anthem.

Fraley and Jimmy Lakes were the primary organizers of the event. They began planning for it in September 2020. Lakes noted the Berea City Council voted unanimously to pay for the sign. He thanked Byrd for his service to the country.

"He couldn't be here this morning because he, along with 15 of his fellow Kentucky soldiers, didn't make it back from Southeast Asia. And his remains, as far as anybody knows, is still buried somewhere in a shallow grave in Vietnam. So this morning I do want to say — it may sound trite or whatever — but I would like to say thank you Captain Byrd for your life and thank you for your service," Lakes said.

Lakes was among several in the crowd, including Madison County Sheriff Mike Coyle, who knew Byrd. Billy Baker had the closest friendship with the captain among anyone in attendance and regaled the audience with stories about growing up with him in Berea.

The two were close childhood friends and met when Byrd and his family moved to Berea in the 1950's. Growing up, the two would ride their bicycles through town and frequently went camping together. They also attended the same church. One colorful incident Baker shared was when a young Byrd jumped into a pond during winter to rescue a dog.

"His whole life was helping things — help a dog, help his fellow soldier," Baker said. "He was truly a good old boy... I just loved him."

Following Baker's stories, Addelyn Kate Moody performed "My Old Kentucky Home."

Mayor Fraley then gave a brief history of Byrd's military record. Much of the information was gathered by his sister Nita Byrd Lumpkin, who was unfortunately unable to attend the ceremony.

Before the sign was officially unveiled, Brooke Danielle Way performed "America the Beautiful" on the violin and Patrick Caskey of Rolling Thunder Kentucky performed "Taps."

"It's something that's been a long time coming," Mayor Fraley said of the sign. "I've talked to Captain Byrd's family and friends. I've learned a lot about him and again, he is who I think, our only person from Berea who's missing in action from Vietnam. Being able to make sure that he's always remembered for his sacrifice and service — the importance of that is hard to really quantify. This is just one way we can do that."