FORT HOOD, Texas - After being out of Advanced Individual Training and stationed on Fort Hood for only three weeks, Pvt. Ernesto Pereida, Regimental Engineer Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment already has a goal: to obtain his spurs and Stetson through the Cavalry Spur Ride.
Because the spur ride involves a long ruck march, along with other physical and mental tests, Pereida knew that he had some work to do. So when Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers offered a long ruck march event, he immediately signed up for it.
That was how he found himself out at BOSS headquarters at 4:15 a.m., April 16, preparing with seven other Soldiers to embark on a 14.2-mile ruck march around Fort Hood, in honor of the annual Bataan Memorial Death March held throughout the military each year.
The Bataan Memorial Death March is a challenging event, with marchers choosing either a 26.2-mile marathon or 14.2-mile honorary distance march. While the main event is held at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico each year, military units throughout the world often hold their own Bataan Death March event in order to honor those who perished in the historical Bataan Death March of 1942.
During World War II, on April 9, 1942, U.S. and Filipino Soldiers in the Philippine Peninsula surrendered to Japanese forces after seven months of battle combined with exposure to the extreme elements, disease and lack of vital supplies. The tens of thousands of U.S. and Filipino Soldiers were forced to become prisoners of war to the Japanese. The Soldiers faced horrifying conditions and treatment as POWs.
Deprived of food, water and medical attention, the POWs were forced to march 65 miles to confinement camps throughout the Philippines. Marching for days through the scorching jungles of the Philippines, thousands of Soldiers died. Those who survived faced the hardships of prisoner of war camps and the brutality of their Japanese captors. They would not see freedom until 1945 when the U.S.-Filipino forces recaptured the lost territory.
During the march, approximately 10,000 men – 1,000 Americans and 9,000 Filipinos – perished.
In 1989, the Army ROTC Department at New Mexico began sponsoring the Bataan Memorial Death March in honor of those who had perished on April 9th and thereafter. Now, along with the official march at White Sands, units throughout the world host their own event.
Fort Hood BOSS decided to host an annual march for Soldiers here April 16, with eight showing up to complete the honorary 14.2-mile march. BOSS provided water points throughout the route for all Soldiers participating in the march, and also provided breakfast and snacks before and after the march.
Pereida, who was preparing for a spur ride, was the only participant to show up in full uniform, body armor and weighted rucksack in order to best test his physical preparedness of the ruck march.
“I like the opportunity to prepare for the spur ride,” Pereida said, “and I like the fact that this will make my mind and body stronger.”
Pereida, who hasn’t been at Fort Hood for very long, is excited about what BOSS has to offer. As a single Soldier in the barracks, he likes the opportunity to be able to try new things.
“I think the BOSS program is really cool,” he remarked. “One day I’d like to put in an application for the ROTC program, and I think having the volunteer work and things that BOSS offers will be really good for that.”
Because he was weighted down much more than the other Soldiers, Pereida ended up marching by himself for the majority of the 14.2 miles that were mapped out for the ruck march. The route included two full laps going up Hell On Wheels Avenue from the Sprocket Auto Center, all the way to Clear Creek Road; turning to come back down Old Ironsides Ave., to the BOSS headquarters, and another lap around. Although he was given the opportunity many times to be picked up by the BOSS van, driven by Fort Hood BOSS treasurer Spc. Travis Boreni and BOSS intern Spc. Skyler Blanding, Pereida refused to quit, insisting on completing the entire march.
“I’m not going to quit,” Pereida said. “Just like I won’t quit with anything the Army gives me, I won’t quit this march either.”