With outpouring support from the region, Pvt. Overbey begins journey to final resting place

Published 8:55 am Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Star Photo/Curtis Carden                 Members of the Honor Guard place the remains of Overbey inside a hearse to be taken to Erwin.

Star Photo/Curtis Carden
Members of the Honor Guard place the remains of Overbey inside a hearse to be taken to Erwin.

As storm clouds spurred throughout the area, a glimmer of light shined bright from Tri-Cities Airport.
U.S. Army Air Corps Pvt. Evans E. Overbey, of Coeburn, Va., received a hero’s welcome Tuesday evening with various organizations honoring the remains of the prisoner of war that lost his life during World War II.
The fallen solider’s remains were brought to the airport in a Delta MD88 airplane as hundreds surrounded the premises of the facility.
Overbey’s story covers a wide range of locations. From his mother and father being from Elizabethton, to growing up in Virginia, and to his current relatives living in Erwin – the veteran’s support flows across the state line, according to Jim Richard with the Patriot Guard.
“He has ties to such a wide area,” Richard said. “He’s someone the entire area can be proud of and have a stake of him being their hometown hero.”
The Patriot Guard riders are just one of a handful of organizations that assisted with the convoy from Blountville to Erwin with the Rolling Thunder leading the charge.
“We’re very honored to be working with each of the groups tonight in remembering Pvt. Overbey, “ Jeff Kilbourn, the local chapter of Rolling Thunder’s president, said.
Kay Nave, secretary with the Rolling Thunder, is a native of Elizabethton and said she is excited about the support being shown for Overbey.
“I am deeply humbled to have the chance to work with this event,” Nave said. “I’ve also been humbled to work with Michael Peterson, of Valley Funeral Home, in organizing the services for Thursday.”
An open service for Overbey will be held at the funeral home in Erwin from 11 a.m. from 7 p.m. with Patriot Guard and Rolling Thunder standing watch near the coffin throughout the evening.
Nave added that the services will have a special sign of respect for Overbey, who will be showcased in an open coffin. The remains of Overbey will be wrapped in wool and placed in the uniform, allowing the solider to be laid to rest in uniform.
Once Thursday’s event concludes, the veteran will be buried with a proper military ceremony at Mountain Home National Cemetery in Johnson City. Attendees for the committal service are asked to meet at the cemetery by 2:05 p.m.
At the ceremony, citizens are encouraged to line up through the sidewalks leading into the cemetery. Congressman Phil Roe will provide medals and a POW/MIA flag, along with medals for the family. A fly over will also occur during the service.
Rolling Thunder and Patriot Guard will be joined by multiple groups, including the Dog Tags Brigade, Combat Veterans Association, Tennessee Highway Patrol and representative from the Carter County, Washington County, Johnson County, Sullivan County, and Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department.
Nave, who has been with the group for four years, said the importance of these groups working to highlight veterans is necessary.
“This is a very personal group for me,” she added. “My uncle was a POW in World War II in Germany. My husband, Spencer, served in Vietnam so this means a lot to me.”
Overbey passed away at the age of 25 after becoming a POW serving in Pacific. The Wise County native was a member of the 93rd Bombardment Squadron, 19th Bombardment Group, when the U.S. entered World War II.
In a press release issued by Rolling Thunder documenting Overbey’s military career, the veteran was deployed from Albuquerque, NM, to Clark Field in the Philippines.
On Dec. 8, 1914, Japanese bombers caught the Americans off guard at Clark Field where all but one of the B-17 bombers, which Overbey served on, was destroyed, inflicting over 150 casualties with 55 killed in action.
After a surrender by troops in April 1942, Overbey, along with the remaining survivors, were forced to march in the infamous 65-mile Bataan Death March northward to prison camps in Luzon.
Reports indicated that Overbey survived the march, but died of pellagra – due to malnourishment. The private, along with 13 individuals, were buried in a mass grave at Camp Cabanatuan in November of that year.
Vance also praised the efforts locally of the various organizations, along with Carter County Mayor Leon Humphrey, for their support with the endeavor.
At the end of the day, the multi-day mission ahead for the groups and Overbey’s family is all about respect for the fallen, according to Richard.
“It isn’t about us, we don’t do it for the recognition,” Richard said. “It is all about the veteran and their family. We do this to provide respect for the fallen, from the military, first responders, police officers … these individuals gave us the freedom to sit and home and enjoy life. We owe it to them to provide this type of ceremony.”
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Department of Veterans Services Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder both paid respects to the fallen hero in a press release issued to the Elizabethton Star.
“More than seven decades have passed since Evans Overbey left home to serve his country in World War II,” Haslam said. “There is reverent closure in finally bringing him back to his home state to be buried among our fallen heroes where his family will be joined by his community to offer an appropriate farewell.”
Grinder added, “It is an honor to be able to finally lay this soldier to rest in a field of honor on his home soil. Although I am grieved that his parents were not able to live to see this day, his nieces and nephews will now have confirmation that their Uncle Evans is home and Tennessee is grateful for his valiant sacrifice.”
Overbey is survived by his niece and nephews Grace Erwin and Phillip Erwin of Erwin. Other surviving nieces and nephews include Vernon Rose, Vernon Rose, Jr., Kenneth Sanger, Jeannette Spiesman, Phyllis Ann Willoughby of Ohio as well as Delorse McCauley of North Carolina and Wanda Murray of Colorado.

Star Photo/Curtis Carden A prior serviceman renders a final salute to fallen WWII solider Pvt. Evans Overbey as his remains are brought home to rest.

Star Photo/Curtis Carden
A prior serviceman renders a final salute to fallen WWII solider Pvt. Evans Overbey as his remains are brought home to rest.

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