EUGENE, Ore. — The homeless man who froze to death Tuesday evening, believed to be the first victim of Oregon’s snow, was a decorated war veteran who earned a master’s degree from the University of Oregon.
Thomas Lawrence Egan, 60, was found partially covered in snow near the corner of Blair Boulevard and West First Avenue. According to the Lane County Medical Examiner’s office, he died from exposure to the cold.
Word of Egan’s death spread quickly throughout Lane County’s community of veterans. He was well known among veterans support circles. He served two decades in the Army and Oregon Army National Guard, spent two years serving in Korea and earned several medals and ribbons for his service.
Bud Dickey, a Vocational Rehablitation Coordinator with Eugene’s VA Clinic, says Egan’s story is tragic.
Dickey served alongside Egan for five years in the Oregon National Guard. He calls Egan ” a good person who fell on bad times.”
“There were several different times when people tried to help him and for certain times, he was OK,” said Dickey. “For whatever reasons, he couldn’t stay on track and chose to continue to drink.”
That was one reason Egan remained homeless. According to Dickey, many local housing projects for veterans required sobriety and Egan was unable to remain sober.
“It pulls at all of our heart strings,” said Dickey. “And hopefully the community will take a look at the trouble and the sacrifices these veterans had made for our country. We have so many young ones today who have recently come back and will be going again that are in the same situation. And hopefully we can help them before things get that bad.”
Penny Simpson, the house manager for Vet Net, shared Egan’s military records with KVAL News. She wanted people to know the true identity of the man found in the snow.
According to Simpson:
* Egan was born in 1948 in Port Chester, New York.
* He received his Bachelors Degree in History at Quinnipiac College, Hamden, Conn., in 1971.
* He received his Masters of Arts Degree in 1983 from the University of Oregon
* Thomas was appointed as a Second Lieutenant through the PMS, Yale University 14 June 1971 as an Infantry Officer.
* On Feb. 5, 1977, Thomas was promoted to first lieutenant and subsequently reassigned to the Oregon Army National Guard SPT Co 2nd Battalion 162nd Infantry “VOLUNTEERS” as the Antiarmor Platoon Leader.
* On Aug. 8, 1980, Thomas was promoted to the rank of CPT assigned to Headquarters and headquarters company 2nd Battalion 162nd Infantry.
* On Dec. 22, 1980, Thomas was assigned the Company Commander of Co A 2nd Battalion 162nd Infantry.
* Oct. 1,1989, Thomas was reassigned to Headquarters Starc in Salem, Oregon as the Chemical Officer.
* On July 8, 1990, Thomas was promoted to the rank of Major.
* Thomas retired from the Oregon Army National Guard honorably in 1991.
* Army Reserve Components Achievement Medal with 2 Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters
* National Defense Service Medal
* Humanitarian Service Medal
* Armed Forces Reserve Medal
* Army Service Ribbon
* Overseas Service Ribbon
* Army Reserve Components Overseas Training Ribbon
* Oregon Faithful Service Ribbon with 1 Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster
* Connecticut Recruit-badge