by Colonel (R)
Michael L. Herman
Director, Facilities & Engineering, California
want to thank all of you for being here this evening. The size of this crowd demonstrates
not only the depth of our feelings for Chuck, but also the solidarity we all feel
as a part of the Guard family. In preparing for today, I had the opportunity to
speak with a number of soldiers who have served with Chuck over the years, and
I also want to thank them for their assistance.
first met Lieutenant Charles Lyda in the late 80s. I was an Active Duty advisor
with the Readiness Group, and he was a platoon leader in Alpha Company, 132nd
Engineers. I joined his company for the occasional drill weekend, or when they
went to Annual Training, usually at Fort Hunter Liggett. I don't remember a lot
about him from that time. To be honest, Chuck was one of twenty platoon leaders
in the battalion; it was probably his height that distinguished him more than
anything. That, and a quiet professionalism that would mark his entire career.
COL Greg Peck was his Battalion Commander
in those days, pinning on his gold bars when he was commissioned. He remembers
that LT Lyda was always "up"
-- you could always count on him. He characterized him as a "damn good engineer."
that, our paths parted for a while. He was in the 132nd, I was in the 579th, and
the two battalions didn't mingle much in those days. Of course, we all heard about
"that athlete" over in the 132nd. Chuck commanded Charlie Company in
Yuba City, and his first sergeant, 1SG
Dan McCall, remembers that Chuck took a lot of pride and interest in the training
and welfare of the troops. He took the unit up to Boyle Ridge in the Sierras in
the middle of winter, where they built snow caves and practiced winter survival
techniques. Chuck wasn't married yet, and the 1SG recalls that he was a physical
fitness maniac. When the unit did the Army Physical Fitness Test, Chuck would
always be the first one to finish the two-mile run -- and then he would turn around
and run it again, to encourage the troops who were still on the course.
completing his command, Chuck left for the World Class Athlete program. Chief
Peterson has already described some of his accomplishments there, so I'll just
say that we didn't see much of him for a few years, except for pictures and articles
in magazines and the Grizzly.
his return to California in 2002, Chuck went to work in the G-3 shop at OTAG,
as we called it then. That was about the same time I went to work there, and I
remember the changes -- and sometimes the chaos -- as we transitioned from a peacetime
force to a wartime one. We began to mobilize Soldiers for the first time in over
a dozen years, both for service here at home on operations like Aerosafe, and
then for combat overseas. Chuck was heavily involved in that process, eventually
rising to become the state's Mobilization Officer. COL
Kerry Diminyatz was his boss there, and he remembers that Chuck was the consummate
"fire and forget" professional. You could give him minimal guidance
and be confident that he would execute any mission, never straying from leadership's
intent. You never had to ask him to do anything extra, because he always did it
on his own. This was during the period of the largest mobilizations ever experienced
by the California Guard since Korea, when almost half our Soldiers were mobilized.
Most of them will never know how hard he worked to make sure they were properly
deployed and then redeployed on time, but it is safe to say his diligence touched
every single soldier in those units.
was also during this period that Chuck took part in the Yukon River Race, where
he traveled by canoe over 200 miles through Northwestern Canada. The grueling
race included mandatory rest stops along the way; Chuck said "that takes
all the challenge out of it."
late 2005, then-Major Lyda was selected to deploy to Iraq with the Engineer Brigade,
40th Infantry Division. As we organized for the mobilization, I asked Chuck to
serve as the S-3. True to form, he did so willingly, and once again his quiet
professionalism served us all well. Our unit was known as the Sunburst Sappers.
For those of you who aren't military, I'll explain that the Sunburst refers to
the emblem on the Division patch, and Sappers is a term for military combat engineers.
When we were in pre-deployment training at Fort Bliss, though, we picked up another
nickname. You see, our unit was much more mature than most units heading to Iraq,
with an average age of 45. One of our instructors there entered a classroom where
we were waiting, and upon seeing us exclaimed, "Man, y'all are a bunch of
seasoned soldiers!" The nickname stuck, and for the next 14 months we were
all Seasoned Soldiers.
course, Chuck wasn't quite the oldest of us, but he was definitely in the top
ten. You couldn't have told it by his approach to the training, though -- he gave
every task his full energy, and he was able to match or outdo even the youngest
members of the team. COL Bob Spano, who served the unit as Chief of Staff, discovered
his secret. He remembers going to Chuck's room at the end of the training day
to coordinate something, and finding a quiet, darkened room with only the fan
blowing. Chuck's roommates said "Ssshhh, he's sleeping." So staff call
had to wait, and we all had to tiptoe past his room while he finished his afternoon
Once we reached Iraq, the Seasoned Soldiers split up to various
assignments with the US Army Corps of Engineers. Chuck was assigned as the Operations
Officer for the Gulf Region - North District, in Tikrit, where he was responsible
for security of all the personnel and offices of the District, both at their bases
and when they traveled. CSM
Dick Mefford was the District Sergeant Major, and he remembers that Chuck made
everyone in the District a lot safer. "He really took his job seriously."
1SG John Mohon was his Operations Sergeant there, and remembers how hard he worked.
He took the responsibility very personal, and constantly drove himself and his
staff to accept nothing less than the best. John says he can't remember Chuck
ever making a single negative comment; even when the job got frustrating, he just
kept driving on. 1SG Paul Salinas remembers Chuck always being willing to take
the blunt of whatever was happening, sheltering his subordinates from the worst
of it. He did whatever he could do, working with the task forces, and fought the
fights that needed to be fought. Chris Nelson, one of the civilians assigned to
the District, put it simply: "He took good care of us."
course, Chuck didn't neglect his physical fitness while deployed. He frequently
took his lunch hour to ride his bike on the loop around COB
Speicher, riding ten times around the four-mile perimeter and totaling over 2,300
miles during the year. In the process, he actually wore out the bike. He scored
the maximum possible score of 300 points on both Army Physical Fitness Tests while
he was in Iraq. In fact, from age 54 to 56, he improved his two-mile run time
every time he took the test! And on top of everything else, Chuck completed his
ILE by correspondence,
graduating in the top 10% of his class.
we returned to California in 2007, Chuck was again assigned as the Mobilization
Officer for the state, where he continued to positively affect all the mobilizing
soldiers from behind the scenes. Just as he had done his entire career, Chuck
was the quiet, serious, consummate professional who loved his country and always
fulfilled his responsibilities. He also continued his many athletic endeavors;
most of us have seen him racing into the parking lot on his bike in the morning.
I know I'll never watch a biathlon again without thinking of him.
Bill McCoy, former Commander of the Gulf Region Division, said "Chuck was
a real hero. I am so thankful for his service and commitment to the Nation and
all the things he did to make GRN
and the CA Guard shine." MG Mike Walsh, another former Commander of the Gulf
Region Division, put it simply: "He was a good man." I think we can