Local soldier walks to remember

Troy Eberly of Monmouth, crosses the finish line at the 29th Annual Bataan Memorial Death March

LAS CRUCES, New Mexico — U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Troy Eberly, 47, of Monmouth, medaled at the 29th Annual Bataan Memorial Death March held at White Sands Missile Range near Las Cruces, New Mexico on March 25.

Eberly participated in the march wearing a 35-pound rucksack and came across the finish line with a second-place time of 6:45:07 in his division of “Individual Military, Heavy Pack, Male, Ages 40-49.” Only first- and second-place medals are presented in each division.

The event drew more than 8,400 military and civilian participants from throughout the United States and 11 countries worldwide. It features a 26.2-mile marathon and concurrent 14.2-mile Honorary March through the rugged terrain of the Chihuahuan Desert and foothills of the Organ Mountains at White Sands.

Eberly is a senior drill sergeant with Echo Company, which operates out of the U.S. Army Reserve Center in Eugene. This year marked Eberly’s fifth consecutive entry as a Bataan Memorial Death March marathon participant and brought him his second heavy-pack division medal: Eberly received a first-place medal in 2015 with a time of 6:12:40.

Throughout the years, the challenging nature of the course has led to an overall course completion rate of roughly 50 percent of registrants.

Eberly is one of eight members of Echo Company who participated in the marathon this year, all of whom successfully crossed the finish line.

The event is sponsored by the U.S. Army and its partners and honors the more than 70,000 U.S. and Filipino troops who were surrendered to the Japanese on April 9, 1942 during World War II in the Philippines following extensive combat there, which culminated in the three-month Battle of Bataan as Japan continued its effort to control the Pacific after the bombing of Pearl Harbor months before.

The Allied prisoners of war were marched more than 60 miles in treacherous conditions to Camp O’Donnell, with a majority then transferred to other confinement camps.

Thousands did not survive the brutal Bataan Death March; those who did were imprisoned and endured terrible conditions while thousands more perished. The remaining survivors were liberated by U.S.-Filipino forces in 1945.

Seven American Bataan Death March survivors attended this year’s memorial event, which honors the survivors themselves.

Eberly marched in honor of 2nd Lt. Mansel Reed, a U.S. Army soldier who survived the Bataan Death March, but succumbed to the inhospitable conditions of Camp O’Donnell, where he died of dehydration.

Reed is a relation of Eberly’s colleague Marici Reid, a fellow longtime volunteer with Boy Scout Troop 38 in Monmouth; the same troop through which Eberly achieved the rank of Eagle Scout in 1987.

Eberly, a graduate of Central High School and Oregon State University, also works with Reid at the Central School District Transportation Department, where he is a bus driver and monitor for a special needs bus providing service to Central School District 13J.

Eberly has served in the U.S. Army for 24 years, including 4 and half years of active duty and ongoing service as a member of the U.S. Army Reserve.

Eberly’s commitment to honoring the Spirit of Bataan inspired additional Monmouth residents to make the trip to New Mexico this year as march participants and spectators: Eberly’s wife Allison Hursh, a fourth grade teacher at Monmouth Elementary School and their sons Keith Eberly and Harrison Eberly, students at Central High School, completed this year’s 14.2-mile Honorary March along with Eberly’s sister, Laura Eberly, and family friend Kate Jaffer. Eberly’s parents, Valerie and Dennis Eberly, also attended as cheerleaders at the finish line.

Eberly’s aunt and cousin, Jan Ogan of Columbia City and Lacy Ogan of Portland, and Jaffer’s friend Tim Lightle, of Salem, also made the trip to support the group.

Eberly said he is already in training for next year’s event, when the Bataan Memorial Death March will celebrate its 30th anniversary and attendees will observe the 77th anniversary of the actual Bataan Death March.

For more information on the event, visit www.bataanmarch.com.

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