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House approves signs to honor mid-valley Marine and soldier

Rep. Andy Olson talks with  members of the Troyer and McKinley families at the Capitol on Thursday. (Kyle Odegard/Democrat-Herald)

SALEM — The Oregon House of Representatives met Thursday and voted 56-0 to use highway signs to honor a mid-Willamette Valley Marine and soldier who were killed in Iraq.

Family members said the brown and white signs will help keep the memory of Marine Lance Cpl. Tyler Troyer and Army Spc. Eric Scott McKinley alive, and keep the public aware of their sacrifices.

“You drive down the road, you see this,” said Michael Thorpe, Troyer’s father.

“People will drive by and remember him long after I’m gone,” said Tom McKinley, Eric McKinley’s father.

The matter moves on to the Senate for consideration.  

Signs honoring Troyer will be placed on Highway 34 just west of Oakville Road. The 21-year-old West Albany High School graduate was killed by a sniper in November 2005.

Signs honoring McKinley, a Corvallis resident who attended Philomath High School, will be placed on Highway 20/34 in Philomath. The 24-year-old was killed by a roadside bomb in June 2004.

More than 10 family members of Troyer and McKinley were in attendance on Thursday. After the vote, representatives gave them a standing ovation.

Rep. Andy Olson, R-Albany, took the lead on the House bill. He spoke of McKinley’s bright-colored mohawks during high school, and how he befriended Iraqis while serving.

Olson noted that Troyer was a member of the Bulldogs baseball team, and how, after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, he knew he wanted to defend the country.

The bill also was sponsored by Rep. Sara Gelser, D-Corvallis, and Sen. Betsy Close, R-Albany.

Memorial Middle School eighth-grader Jeremy Thorpe, Tyler Troyer’s brother, said that the signs will honor his family.

“The families go through hard times no matter how long ago it was,” he said.

He added that his brother’s death was like a wound that scars, but never goes away.

Michael Thorpe hopes that more families of fallen servicemen try to get memorial signs in Oregon.

He’s created a Facebook page, the Heroes Highway Project.

Carol Newton of Salem attended on Thursday, and hopes that her grandson, Adam Buyes, has a memorial sign erected for him, as well.

Buyes, a Salem resident, was killed in November 2011 in Afghanistan.

“It’s a wonderful idea,” she said. “They gave their lives for us. The least we can do is remember them.”

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