GRAFTON — He would always stop and wait for the answer.
That’s how it worked whenever you’d see Tim Bolyard in the hallway or in the field.
He’d ask, “Hey, how ya doin’?” then he would halt his stride.
And stand there. And wait for a response.
“It was never a passing greeting with Tim,” Mark Landes said Wednesday afternoon at his funeral.
“He really wanted to know how you were. He’d want to know about your family. And if something happened to be wrong, he wanted to know what he could do to help.”
Bolyard’s extended family came in the form of the U.S. Army soldiers under in his command in the field.
They were often relatively new recruits, and usually on their first tours of duty in war zones. It was his job to watch out for them.
Three weeks ago in eastern Afghanistan, the fates weren’t watching out for Bolyard, a Grafton native who enlisted in the U.S. Army right after his graduation from high school.
He was killed Sept. 3.
Officials and others called the act an “apparent insider threat attack” in the country that is the site of America’s longest-running war.
The career military man died at the scene after a Humvee rolled into his base in the Logar province and its occupants began shooting, according to Star and Stripes, the military newspaper.
Bolyard, 42, who had been recognized with six Bronze stars for his bravery in combat, was shot in the back, the newspaper reported.
Another soldier hit suffered critical injuries but reportedly survived.
Stars and Stripes reported that the shooters, who were later arrested, were Afghan police officers.
Bolyard had deployed earlier in the year with the 3rd Squadron, 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade. Home base for the sergeant major, the Army’s highest enlisted rank, was Fort Benning, Ga.
At his funeral Wednesday, soldiers from all ranks, and all across the country, came to pay their respects at Message of Freedom Church, on U.S. 50, just outside Grafton.
Respect tops rank
A brigadier general, Landes said his respect for Bolyard far outranked any bars or insignias on his shoulders.
He was always impressed by Bolyard’s interaction with the soldiers under his command, he said.
That went from Bolyard’s heartfelt “How ya doin’?” queries — to his deftness at effectively boiling down orders and Army bureaucratic-speak with a we’re-all-in-together” coda: “Does that make sense?”
“Tim spent his time happily serving others,” Landes said. “He was the soldier you could lean on.”
Since his death, the Fort Benning and Grafton communities have been allowing his families here and there to lean on them.
Bolyard leaves a wife, Amy and three grown children and grandchildren at Fort Benning, and other places in the country.
In Grafton, his parents, Marvin and Sandra Jo survive. A brother, Jeff, now lives in Reedsville. His sister, Melissa, still calls Grafton home.
U.S. Route 50 from the church to the West Virginia National Cemetery at Pruntytown, was lined on both sides for the funeral procession.
People who knew Bolyard as a kid and others who didn’t turned out with American flags.
The Patriot Guard military veterans motorcycle group helped lead the procession, while members of the 304 Jeep Club also steered their support.
At his grave, on a rise overlooking undulations of West Virginia hills, a trumpeter played Taps and an honor guard presented folded American flags to each member of his immediate family.
Tough-guy sergeants unashamedly brushed tears and Sandra Jo wrenched hearts when she kissed the top of the casket and said, “I love you, baby.”
The Caveman comes home
Still, through it all, it was impossible to be totally sad.
The slightly mischievous, almost shy grin Bolyard sported for his official Army portraits vectored through, which meant the people still laughed through their tears for the day.
It was smile, that unlike that of the Mona Lisa, wasn’t inscrutable at all, his high school friend Steve Louzy said.
After all, Louzy said, this was a guy who banged his head to Metallica, knocked heads as a solid lineman for the Grafton High Bearcats football team and flipped burgers at the town’s only McDonalds for his spending money.
There was also his high school nickname. “Caveman.” The one he carried for rest of his life.
“Yeah,” Louzy laughed. “He just this big, lumbering guy, so people started calling him ‘Caveman.’ Except the girls called him, ‘Cavie.’ It was always, ‘C’mere, Cavie.’”
For family, friends and country (and the other way around)
Bolyard, without fail, was always there as a friend, Louzy said.
“He wasn’t an extrovert, but wasn’t an introvert, either,” Louzy said.
“Tim never got too excited, and that makes sense, when you look at everything he accomplished in the military and all the things he saw and had to do on the battlefield. That’s who you want, when you’re in circumstances like that.”
His friend, Louzy said, amazingly kept his sense of humor and fun-loving attitude, despite all those combat circumstances.
Bolyard, as chronicled on his Facebook page, doted on his family and was to known to laugh (uncontrollably) at the antics of the “Duck Dynasty” crew on TV.
He was a photography buff who liked a good ice cream shop. The master sergeant was an officially recognized grill master at the cookout, too.
Sugar Puff weighs in
Louzy, a local businessman and advocate of community causes in Grafton, was doing something he thought he should do for Bolyard’s family.
He was selling “Caveman” T-shirts, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to the family of his fallen friend.
Louzy had set up a table along U.S. 50 for the commerce. After the funeral and graveside services, a big guy with a beard and even bigger grin rolled up.
“You’re doing this for the family, right?” William Combs asked.
“Yes sir, I am,” came Louzy’s reply.
“Ya got any in 3X?”
“Sorry, I have to re-order.”
“Crap. How about a 4X?”
“One right here.”
Combs, who drove up from his home in Louisville, Ky., for the funeral, was a soldier under Bolyard’s command.
He’s a big guy — 6-foot-4, 300 pounds — and was that same size when he was in the service.
Because Combs’ bulk was paired with a fun-loving personality, a certain sergeant major came up with what he thought was an appropriate nickname.
“’Sugar Puff.’ He called me, ‘Sugar Puff.’ Only man in the military who could call me that.”
In turn, he was proud to call Bolyard his sergeant major.
Combs was so distraught when he got the text telling him his friend and former officer was dead, that he had to leave work for the day.
“Tim was there for us,” he said. “If he told you something, you knew it was true. He watched out for us and protected us.”
Like the “Caveman” moniker, Combs still answers to “Sugar Puff,” he said — at least in certain situations.
“It’s my gamer tag,” he said.
“You ever see it online, that’s me. My tribute to the sergeant major.”
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