By by Sgt. John DedmanApril 5, 2011
CAMP ARIFJAN, KUWAIT - It was a very warm start on Sunday morning, March 20, 2011, in Kuwait for the second annual Bataan Memorial Death March. That morning, more than 350 Soldiers gathered outside the Zone 1 fitness center clad in ACUs and backpacks, weighing at least 35 pounds.
The 230th Sustainment Brigade was not to be outdone. Several members of the 230th arrived early to weigh their bags and hang out together while waiting for the march to start. Staff Sgt Taylor said, "I wanted to participate and represent my unit in honor of those who were in the Bataan Death March." There was much excitement and photos taken to later be shared among friends over Facebook. Some were there to support fellow 230th Soldiers on the march. Spc. Megan Carlisle, Headquaters and Headquarters Company, 230th Sustainment Brigade supply clerk, said, "I went to provide support for the Lockhart twins." Stephanie and Elizabeth Lockhart are fellow supply clerks and twin sisters in the unit. Some were there to test their endurance, like Chief Warrant Officer 2 Michael Long, the convoy support team operations officer. Long said, "Honestly, this road march showed me I wasn't as conditioned as I had originally thought." Others wanted to be a part of something special as with 2nd Lt. Melake Whyte, whose grandfather was in World War II.
Phil Cochran was the event coordinator this year. He spent some time in the gymnasium where each Soldier first weighed their packs and spoke about the history of the event. The recounting of the history seemed to elicit strong emotion from him while speaking of the treatment of the Soldiers and civilians that were marched 60 miles after the Battle of Bataan during World War II. Cochran shared that he really liked events that were "high value," and this event was packed with historical significance. He was inspired by the camaraderie he saw the event produce amongst the participants. When asked what elicited an emotional reaction, Cochran said, "When I worked for the Transportation Security Administration, I was checking the bags of an elderly couple and in conversation I asked where they were going. The man remained silent, but his wife proudly announced that they were going to the reunion of those who survived the Bataan death march."
The event was started in 2010 by Dee Davis, who previously worked for the fitness center. Davis was at the fitness center last year when she recalled a missed opportunity to participate in the memorial road march in White Sands, N. M. "In 2001, I was a combat medic and I planned to participate in the White Sands Bataan Memorial Death March," said Davis. For her, it "is rich with historical meaning." The chance was lost when 9/11 occurred and all such activities were put on hold. Staff Sgt Michael Roberts, the supply sergeant of HHC 230th, would agree with Davis as he said, "I just did it because it was good reason to do it." Working at the fitness center at the time, she proposed the idea to her supervisor and a new, meaningful event was added to the calendar. She was pleased to hear that over 300 people showed up this year; in fact, she seemed pleasantly surprised it was held again for the second year in a row.
The history of the event is what makes the march so important to military service members. In 1942, after the Battle of Bataan, part of the Battle of the Philippines, a forcible transfer of 75,000 American and Filipino prisoners of war were marched for 61 miles without food or drink most of the way. Many were beaten or even killed if they fell behind or could not march.
Annual memorial marches are held in Minnesota by the 194th Armored Regiment of the Minnesota Army National Guard, and in New Mexico at White Sands Missile Range. The distances range from 10 miles to marathon distances. Camp Arifjan's memorial march took Soldiers on a 12.5 kilometer (7 3/4 miles) path through sand and gravel around the post and ending back at the Zone 1 fitness center.
It was a time of friendship and sharing a moment that would become significant and special to them. Above all, it was about finishing that challenge which was different for each as Carlisle said of the Lockhart twins, "Rucksacks are not made for short people," explaining the struggle the pack presented for the Lockharts. Each of them gave support and encouragement to others to continue to the finish line. Lockhart quipped, "I felt sore, but (I felt) accomplished after I finished."