Veteran marchers participating in the 30th Annual Bataan Memorial Death March that gets underway March 17, 2019, will notice a few changes at the marathon event honoring U.S. and Filipino Soldiers who defended the islands of Luzon, Corregidor and the harbor-defense forts of the Philippines at the onset of World War II.

They fought in a malaria-infested region, surviving on half- or quarter-rations, with little or no medical care, outdated equipment and virtually no air support. On April 9, 1942, tens of thousands of American and Filipino Soldiers surrendered to Japanese forces. They were marched for days in the scorching heat through the Philippine jungles. Thousands died. Those who survived the forced march faced years of hardship in prisoner-of-war camps.

A record 8,631 marchers and runners registered for this year's march, and changes have been made for the event to make it more enjoyable and efficient for them, said Summer Irvin, the marketing and special events director for the White Sands Missile Range Family & MWR office.

The first change involves a new location for the Marcher Packet Pickup which will now take place on March 14, 15 & 16 at the Las Cruces Convention Center (LCCC) located at 680 East University Ave., near New Mexico State University.

Also taking place in the LCCC will be:

- Free historical seminars presented by New Mexico State University ROTC cadets who conceived and conducted the first Bataan Memorial Death March in 1989.
- The Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project
- The Bataan Congressional Gold Medal Presentation
- A Meet the Bataan Survivors opportunity
- A DJ on site making announcements throughout the days about upcoming events

In the past, these events occurred at different locations on WSMR. Irvin said the LCCC provides more room for large crowds and offers "one-stop shopping" convenience to attend more events. For specific times and dates, see the Bataan Event Schedule included in this article or go to the Bataan Memorial Death March Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/BataanMemorialDeathMarch/

Pre-march festivities will also include a concert featuring Easton Corbin with his special guest Honey County at the Pan American Center at NMSU on March 15. Limited free tickets will be available to marchers when they pick up their Marcher Packet. Tickets are also available at www.ticketmaster.com

Another change that marchers will probably appreciate is helping them get off to a faster and simpler start. In the past, marchers crowded inside a fenced soccer field for the opening ceremony and then poured onto Aberdeen Avenue to begin the march.

This year, as marchers arrive at the start area no later than their 6 a.m. deadline, they will be ushered into place on Aberdeen Avenue where they can enjoy the opening ceremony taking place near the starting line via large jumbotron screens courtesy of Army Entertainment.

At the conclusion of the opening ceremony, participants will begin their march or run in their same position. See the designated corrals for starting categories on the Important Information for Marchers graphic in this article or at www.bataanmarch.com

But before they get started, many will be happy to learn that vendors will be parked near the starting area offering hot coffee and foods such as breakfast burritos. Coffee and food vendors will also be setting up for the day at the Post Exchange area, said Irvin.

And as a reminder for those not participating in the event, Owen Road and the Las Cruces Gate will be closed on the day of the march from 6 a.m. until later that evening. Irvin also reminds those on the periphery of the event to please be patient with the huge throng of tourists and participants here for the event, and to exercise extra caution for drivers on post not familiar with the roads and speed limits.

But if you're not participating as a marcher or runner, Irvin encourages becoming involved as a volunteer by going to the Bataan web page at www.bataanmarch.com

Volunteer support is still needed, and the experience is memorable, said Irvin.

"I love this event," said Irvin. "The Bataan Memorial Death March is unique. It's something I feel everyone should experience at least one time in some way, shape or form. Even if you can't participate as a marcher, come and volunteer and see the power of opening ceremony for yourself. Last year was the first time that I got to experience it, and for me it was powerful. It brought tears to my eyes. It's a great, great event."