21 March 2010

Every Day Heroes


And now...

History of Bataan Death March

The Bataan Memorial Death March honors a special group of World War II heroes. These brave soldiers were responsible for the defense of the islands of Luzon, Corregidor and the harbor defense forts of the Philippines.

The conditions they encountered and the aftermath of the battle were unique. They fought in a malaria-infested region, surviving on half or quarter rations with little or no medical help. They fought with outdated equipment and virtually no air power.

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.

Bataan Survivors

Memorial March began in 1989

The Army ROTC Department at New Mexico State University began sponsoring the memorial march in 1989 to mark a page in history that included so many native sons and affected many families in the state. In 1992, White Sands Missile Range and the New Mexico National Guard joined in the sponsorship and the event was moved to the missile range.

In 2003, for the only time in its history, the memorial march was canceled. Operation Iraqi Freedom required extensive deployment among the units that usually support the march and event could not be safely and efficiently conducted.

Since its inception, the memorial march has grown from about 100 to some 5,200 marchers from across the United States and several foreign countries. While still primarily a military event, many civilians choose to take the challenge.

Marchers come to this memorial event for many reasons — personal challenge, the spirit of competition or to foster esprit de corps in their unit. Some march in honor of a family member or a particular veteran who was in the Bataan Death March or was taken a prisoner of war by the Japanese in the Philippines.

For more on these heroes, go here.

There has been much written about this dark period in human history - about these heroes. Today is the 2010 Bataan Death March Memorial. Go read it all, and marvel at the heroes of then and now.

We owe it to the heroes of then and now, to always remember and honour them. With gratitude.

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