March 25 marked the 23rd annual Bataan Memorial Death March at the White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. The march has been an annual honor in remembrance of the soldiers who defended the islands of Luzon, Corregidor and the harbor defense ports of the Philippines during World War II according to the Bataan Memorial Death March website.
According to the march’s site, “On April 9, 1942, tens of thousands of American and Filipino soldiers were surrendered to Japanese forces. The Americans were Army, Army Air Corps, Navy and Marines. Among those seized were members of the 200th Coast Artillery, New Mexico National Guard. They were marched for days in the scorching heat through the Philippine jungles. Thousands died. Those who survived faced the hardships of a prisoner of war camp. Others were wounded or killed when unmarked enemy ships transporting prisoners of war to Japan were sunk by U.S. air and naval forces.”
The Army ROTC at New Mexico State University has memorialized these brave soldiers every year with the march that started in 1989, in 1992 the ROTC was joined by White Sands Missile Range and the New Mexico National Guard as sponsors.
Participants are able to choose between two routes, a 26.2-mile route or a 14-mile route. The larger route is the length the soldiers endured. For the past three years Keres Consulting, Inc. a federal and tribal consulting firm owned by Timothy Chavez, a Pueblo of Acoma member, has joined in the march. Staff members march in honor of fellow Pueblo of Acoma member and Bataan Death March survivor, Sam Antonio according to a press release by Keres.
Chavez who felt honored marching on behalf of Antonio reflected on the veteran’s stories.
“It was a unique privilege to thank Mr. Antonio in our Native language for his service to our country,” Chavez, Keres president and CEO, said in the release. “His stories enriched us with immense gratitude and patriotism. It was an incredible honor to walk on his behalf for 26.2 grueling miles.”
Antonio had shared a story of delaying his capture by the Japanese forces in the Philippines by refusing to surrender and pirating a small canoe to hand paddle across to the Island of Corregidor according to the release.
For more information about the Bataan Memorial Death March, visit www.bataanmarch.com.