by Staff Sgt. E'Lysia A. Wray
49th Wing Public Affiars
3/23/2015 - HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- Hours
before the sun crests the Organ Mountains, more than 5,600 people from
around the world come to show their support and participate in the 26th
annual Bataan Memorial Death March held at White Sands Missile Range,
N.M. Sunday March 22.
"This memorial march pays tribute to the bravery, heroism and sacrifice
of those who defended Luzon, Corregidor and harbor defense forts of the
Philippines in 1942 during World War ll," said Brig. Gen. Timothy R.
Coffin, U.S. Army White Sands Missile Range commanding general.
The Bataan Memorial Death March, held at the White Sands Missile Range,
was created to honor those approximately 75,000 Filipino and American
troops who received the order to surrender on the island of Luzon, April
9, 1942. It was there that these troops were taken prisoner by the
Japanese and were forced to make the grueling 65-mile march to
prisoner-of-war camps. The memorial march honors the sacrifices of those
soldiers taken prisoner, and in many cases, gave their lives during
"With every step you take you have the opportunity to reflect on the
story of Bataan. Your participation ensures the Bataan Soldier's story
continues to be told, keeping the legacy and character of these great
Americans alive," said Coffin.
The memorial event is a challenging trek through the high desert and
mountain terrain of southern New Mexico. Participants can choose from
two routes. The Green route, which is the full 26.2 miles, and the Blue
honorary route which is 14.2 miles.
Both routes allow participants to experience a small portion of what the
soldiers endured during their long march through malaria-filled jungles
in the Philippines.
"We're not going to make you do 65 miles here today, but, you will begin
to feel some of the pain, some of the agony, some of the burn that went
on in that march," said Coffin.
Active duty, Guard, Reserve, Retires, civilians, ROTC Cadets, veterans,
wounded warriors, volunteers, and spectators all came to pay homage to
not only the Filipino and American troops, but also to acknowledge the
great sacrifice that local veterans paid during the Bataan Death March.
"Of the approximate 1,800 men from New Mexico's 200th and 515th coastal
artillery regiments, that were deployed to the Philippines in 1941, only
900 returned back to the United States at the end of the war. Bataan
took a heavy toll on the state of New Mexico," said Coffin.
The annual memorial event ensures that future generations remember and understand the sacrifices of those who came before them.
"The Bataan Death March began and will continue to be a way to honor
those who perished and those who lived through that horrific chapter of
World War ll. The legacy of the march, which has brought us here today,
keeps its history alive and ensures the sacrifices made and lessons
learned are not forgotten," said Coffin.