FORT KNOX, Kentucky - Army Lt. Col. Madeline Gorini was tired when she saw another steep incline that led to miles upon miles of additional roads and hills. Her uniform, carrying the American flag forward as she took another step in her combat boots, was complimented with a large rucksack on her back in the moderately quiet, but warm spring day in Fort Knox, Kentucky. Participating in a rucking event is indeed a challenge that all U.S. Soldiers are familiar with, but Gorini’s experience was far different. She was one of one of the few Soldiers who decided to accept the Bataan Memorial Death March challenge in April, 2021.
Gorini, who currently serves as the chief of administrative law for the V Corps office of the staff judge advocate, was born and raised in Southwick, Massachusetts. She graduated law school before she joined the Army as an officer in 2005. She has completed multiple marches and rucks throughout her ongoing career, but was determined to complete a ruck march with her fellow Soldiers that had a greater meaning, one that honors thousands of Soldiers that died and endured hardships in Imperial Japanese custody during a devastating march that occurred in April, 1942 during WWII, now known as the Bataan Death March.
“I wanted to try the memorial march because I'd certainly never done a ruck of that length before,” said Gorini. “I wanted the opportunity not only to be able to honor our fallen heroes but also to try and challenge myself and my physical capabilities.”
For the first time in the event’s 32 year history, the 26.2 mile Bataan Memorial Death March was held virtually, giving participating members the freedom to choose a route that fit their goals. The literal aspect of rucking kept Gorini strong and vigilant during the event, but the figurative meaning to the weight she carried on her shoulders gave her additional motivation.
“Rucking reminded me that this is what it means to be a Soldier, carrying weight literally on our back, but also all of the things that a Soldier is expected to balance, maintain, and juggle. It had a sort of symbolic significance for me as well,” said Gorini.
Rucking up and down hills for hours took a toll on Gorini and her battle buddies, but they all refused to give up and pushed forward. They completed the ruck in the afternoon, after starting the challenge at 7 a.m. in the morning, ending the long journey to the finish line.
“When we were done, I was just like, I can’t believe I did that,” said Gorini. “Oh my goodness, I was thinking, it’s been like 7 hours and we’re still not done, so there was a lot of mental encouragement that you give yourself and your teammates too.”
After Gorini completed the challenge, she had a deeper appreciation of Army history and the importance of teamwork. She received a Bataan Marcher t-Shirt and participation medal after her team’s mile count was submitted to the hosting organization.
“Maybe by participating in the ruck march, it has the chance to motivate other Soldiers, including more junior Soldiers,” said Gorini. “Soldiers might think they don’t want to do things out of their comfort zone, but that’s the best way to grow.”