FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz. -- More than 250 Soldiers and civilians assembled on Brown Parade Field here beginning at 4 a.m. April 10, for the opening ceremony of the 2021 Bataan Memorial Death March sponsored by the 111th Military Intelligence Brigade and the Directorate of Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation.
“We are thrilled this is an event bringing the community together even with our challenging and changing environment,” said Chaplain (Maj.) Jameson Williams, brigade chaplain, 111th MI Bde., and officer in charge for the Bataan Memorial Death March 2021.
The 32nd annual Bataan Memorial Death March was hosted virtually for the first time in event history. The decision by White Sands Missile Range to host the event virtually allows leadership to keep COVID safety the top priority for participants, volunteers, staff and community supporters. It also gives participants the flexibility to choose a date and route that works best for them, while honoring the memory of World War II heroes. The Fort Huachuca march, primarily for Soldiers and students under 111th MI Bde., attracted several outside competitors and volunteers from within the 250-mile radius around the installation.
“This is a super event,” said Williams. “I’m so excited the community around Fort Huachuca is doing the march or here to volunteer; the community here really jumped in to help.”
The memorial march is conducted in honor of the heroic service members who defended the Philippine Islands during World War II, sacrificing their freedom, health, and, in many cases, their very lives.
On April 9, 1942 tens of thousands of American and Filipino Soldiers were surrendered to Japanese forces and were forced to march more than 60 miles in the scorching heat through the Philippine jungles. Thousands died and those who survived faced the hardships of prisoner of war camps. “There is a cost to the freedom,” said Col. Loren Traugutt, brigade commander, 111th MI Bde., during the opening ceremony.
“We are here to remember that cost that others paid for us.”
The Bataan Memorial Death March is a challenging and grueling march that tests both mental and physical abilities. For the 2021 virtual experience, installations hosting a memorial march were encouraged to choose a challenging stretch of road or trail in honor of the historical march. Marchers could choose between the full 26.2 mile marathon length or a 14.2 mile honorary distance.
“As you are out there in the state of suffering; the temperature gets warmer; your legs are hurting; your feet are hurting; your mind will be hurting,” Traugutt exclaimed. “I want you to think back to Soldiers marching 79 years ago.”
“Remember, they are why we are out here today!”
Mentioned by many competing during the event, Traugutt’s words lead impact to esprit de corps and motivation.
His words were also evident in the display of camaraderie.
Spc. Jonathan Sherman and Pvt. 1st Class Noah Frohn, both active duty, military intelligence students, Bravo Company 305th MI Battalion, competed together on the 26.2-mile march.
“The reason I wanted to compete is because of the difficulty,” Sherman said.
Sherman stated he had not marched this many miles ever and looked forward to the challenge of a 26.2-mile march.
“Our team made the match an all-star event,” Frohn said. “We decided to make it fun.”
The two donned matching straw cowboy hats, black sunglasses, Hawaiian shirts and their government issued combat boots with their stars and stripes shorts.
“We act as our own mascots,” Frohn laughed.
“The march felt good while we were doing it,” Sherman said. “We are similar in height, so our pacing is a good match.
“The last six miles were brutal!”
Although Sherman completed the Bataan, he finished with a severe heat injury.
“I went from the finish line straight to the hospital,” he said.
Frohn accompanied Sherman to the hospital and stayed while he was treated.
“We both pushed each other so hard through the whole march!” Frohn exclaimed. “I had to be a good battle buddy.”
Most students with 305th MI Bn. have endured a rigorous class schedule for well over four months with some who have been on the installation longer due to class modifications during COVID-19.
Although an arduous event, the march offered students a well-deserved break in the daily routine, Sherman said.
The local 2021 Bataan Memorial Death March also highlighted the community’s support of Fort Huachuca, Traugutt said. He reminded all competitors to thank the many volunteers in attendance and assisting at the water and medical points.
“We have well over fifty volunteers across the course today,” he said. “Volunteers are here representing the USO, the Army Wellness Center, The Scouts of America, both boys’ troop, and girls’ troops, volunteers from the Warrant Officer Training Branch, as well as volunteers from the Basic Officer Training Course and the enlisted Advanced Leadership Course.”
“I want to say thanks to all the volunteers who came out to help.”
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Fort Huachuca is home to the U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence, the U.S. Army Network Enterprise Technology Command (NETCOM)/9th Army Signal Command, and more than 48 supported tenants representing a diverse, multiservice population. Our unique environment encompasses 964 square miles of restricted airspace and 2,500 square miles of protected electronic ranges, key components to the national defense mission.
Located in Cochise County, in southeast Arizona, about 15 miles north of the border with Mexico, Fort Huachuca is an Army installation with a rich frontier history. Established in 1877, the Fort was declared a national landmark in 1976.
We are the Army's Home. Learn more at https://home.army.mil/huachuca/