4/8/2009 - HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --
On April 9, 1942, tens of thousands of American and Filipino soldiers surrendered to Japanese forces and were marched for days in the scorching heat through the Philippine jungles. This historical event is known as the Bataan Death March.
For 16 years White Sands Missile Range has been the host site for the Bataan Memorial Death March - a 26-mile walk to commemorate the courage and sacrifice those captive soldiers had while under Japanese control.
"We do what we can for our veterans. We appreciate what they have done for us and how they have made so many things possible for our country," said Staff Sgt. Mark Mithum, Army National Guard 32nd Brigade, Wisconsin.
The Bataan Memorial Death March was started by the New Mexico State Universities Army ROTC department in 1989 with around 100 participants. Each year the numbers of participants grow. This year's march set a new record with over 5,300 armed forces members and civilians from across the United States, and several foreign countries taking part, which topped last year's mark of 4,400.
The March has two courses from which participants can choose. The first and more rigorous task is the green route which is 26.2 miles of desert trails and washes reaching 4,100 to 5,300 feet of elevation. The top two finishers receive awards for this trail. The blue route is the second, shorter route covering approximately 15 miles in length which is designed for participates who would like to memorialize Bataan, but do not wish to march the full 26.2 mile route.
"The toughest part is getting past the mental block of the length and just telling yourself you can do it," said Private First Class Rwdy Fichtener, 2300 Alpha Battalion, Gillette, Wy.
The Bataan Memorial Death March gives honor and tribute to the veterans both alive and deceased who braved the events of 1942.
"It's a great privilege to be here to honor the memory of friends that we lost," said Bataan Death March Veteran William Eldridge, captured as a Private First Class, 31st Infantry Regiment.
For more information on the Bataan Death March or to register for the 2010 march contact White Sands Missile Range Morale Welfare and Recreation at firstname.lastname@example.org