Bataan Marchers Pay Tribute to Heroes
July 24, 2008
Wounded warriors led an all-time record of more than 4,400 marchers in the 19th annual Bataan Memorial Death March at White Sands Missile Range, N.M.
Twenty-eight wounded warriors who served in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq participated in the annual march. The event honors the 75,000 Filipino and U.S. Soldiers who surrendered to Japanese forces in World War II and were forced to march about 100 kilometers from Bataan Peninsula to Camp O'Donnell, a prison camp, in the scorching heat through the Philippine jungles. Thousands died, and the survivors endured years of brutal captivity.
Most of the wounded warriors who participated this year came from Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Members of the Wounded Warrior Regiment, Marine Casualty Services Branch out of Bethesda Naval Hospital, Md., also participated.
The 26.2-mile memorial march route starts on the White Sands main post, crosses dusty and hilly desert terrain, circles a small mountain and returns to the main post through sandy desert trails and washes. The elevation ranges from about 4,100 to 5,300 feet.
Teal Reeves of Fort Carson, Colo., MEDDAC finished with the fastest time in the female heavy (with 35-pound backpack) category. She finished the course in 5 hours, 53 minutes and 40 seconds. Forty-four members of Fort Carson MEDDAC participated.
A five-member team from Brooke won the military male heavy team category with a combined time of 29:12:58. Arthur Mathisen of the 121st Combat Support Hospital competed with the Eighth Army team that finished second in that category.
Amanda Miller of the 121st CSH was on the Eighth Army team that won the military female heavy team category.
Teams from Walter Reed placed second among military coed teams in the heavy (with backpacks) and light (without packs) divisions of the march. A team of Walter Reed escorts also completed the 15-mile honorary route.
"Our interest came from the history of the march, knowing what the men went through during the actual march," said Michael Brown, who marched on the Walter Reed light team.
He added the most difficult parts of the march were a seven-mile incline and the change in temperature from mid-40s in the morning to mid-70s in the afternoon.
"There were minor blisters and cramps, we used bandaids and changed socks while monitoring Gatorade and water intake," Brown said. He said the Walter Reed Soldiers trained for the event by running up to 18 miles two or three times a week.
"We participated in the Bataan Death March because the very man our clinic is named after was a survivor of the march," said Matthew Sims, one of three participants from Andrew Rader Army Health Clinic at Fort Myer, Va.
"It makes you really think about things," said Timothy Hobbs Jr. of Fort Myer. "No matter how much pain we were in, we just kept thinking about the Bataan survivors and what they went through, and we found a way to keep marching. I would encourage everyone to do this march; it is an experience I will never forget."