Members of the New York National Guard marked the anniversary of the Bataan Death March in the Philippines under the hot sun of New Mexico, completing the Bataan Memorial Death March at the White Sands Missile Range March 21.

Part of the All-National Guard Marathon Team, Sergeant 1st Class Barry Brill, from Fishkill, N.Y. and assigned to the 106th Regional Training Institute at Camp Smith takes his running seriously.

Brill, who completed eight marathons in 2009 with the All Guard Team, including this race, returned to White Sands in 2010 to better his time on the grueling course.

The National Guard All-Guard Marathon Team is a team of competitive marathon runners funded by National Guard Bureau to compete at various races throughout the United States.

"The course is extremely tough and challenging and reaches a maximum elevation of 5,399 feet," Brill said, who completed the course last year too. "The majority of the course consists of steady rolling hills and loose sand which makes running extremely difficult."

"There's no real way to replicate the Bataan course except for adding hilly runs to your weekly training regimen," he said.

The Bataan Memorial Death March honors the servicemen who defended the island of Luzon in the Philippines in 1942. On April 9, 1942, some 75,000 American and Filipino soldiers surrendered to Japanese forces. Among those were members of the New Mexico National Guard.

The 60-mile march through the Philippine jungles to prisoner of war camps caused the deaths of thousands of American and Filipino servicemen. Survivors faced the enduring hardships of the camps until liberation near the end of the war.

The Army ROTC Department at New Mexico State University began sponsoring the memorial march in 1989 and in 1992, the White Sands Missile Range and New Mexico National Guard joined in the sponsorship and the event was moved to the missile range.

Today, the Bataan Memorial March is a full marathon course covering 26.2 miles in the high desert of Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Participants in the Bataan Memorial March marathon could compete in two categories; a light and heavy division separated participants based on their load carried for the course.

"Participants in the light division run the course in either civilian or military attire of their choice," Brill said, "whereas in the heavy division participants carry 35 pound rucksacks over the same distance. I was the first military member to cross the finish line from either category (light or heavy)."

Brill's time with the All Guard Team for the marathon was three hours, three minutes and 31 seconds. He placed third out of the 2,614 finishers of the Bataan Memorial March marathon.

Joining Brill were five Airmen from the New York Air National Guard's 103rd Rescue Squadron, 106th Rescue Wing. The "Guardian Angels" pararescue jumpers finished first for the heavy National Guard team category with an average time of 6 hours and 14 minutes, one minute ahead of their second place finishing team from the Missouri National Guard.

Combat rescue officer 1st Lt. Bryan Walsh marched at event for the first time with the 103rd Rescue Squadron. Walsh said the memorial march was very rewarding.

"The program memorializes those guys that came before us, and that's the main reason we wanted to do it," Walsh said. "But we also used it as a training tool. Our unit's getting deployed in a couple of months and we trained for the march for four months. You never know when something like this might come in handy. It's helping us be prepared for anything."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16