Last Sunday I once again took part in the awesome Bataan Death March Memorial, which is open to walkers and runners. There are quite a few runners and even more walkers in this event. The purpose of it is to honor those who were in the original Bataan Death March 71 years ago. This is the 24th year of this event. It also honors all other veterans and military. It's held at White Sands Missile Range, a military base about 2 1/2 hours from where I live. The opening ceremonies, with honoring Bataan surivors, color guard, reading of the names of those survivors from New Mexico who passed away in the past year, and a flyover. There were 2 military units from New Mexico (a total of 1800 soldiers from here) who were captured and forced on that March. Half of them died during that imprisonment. Within a few years after the war another half of those survivors had died, many due to injuries or disease contracted during the death march Because they are into their 90's now, there aren't a lot of them left. Wickipedia says that as of May 2012 there were only a total of 60 US survivors left, and 31 of those live in New Mexico. We lost the last 2 from the county I live in during the past year, as well as others in other counties or states, so there are even less left now. They bring the survivors that are able to be there from our state as honorary guests, and they are present and introduced at the opening ceremonies. Then they are moved by vans up to just before the actual start line where you can shake their hands and greet or thank them just before you go onto the course. Then they are there right after the finish line also. There were 13 survivors at this year's march from the death march and the battle of Corregidor around the same time period in the Phillipines also. Their families also are invited and sit with them in the opening ceremonies.
Before the opening ceremonies started I got pics of a few of them. Not all had arrived and been seated yet.
The organizers were trying to get everyone in place and get things arranged so I didn't hang around this area much so I wouldn't be in the way. But I did shake their hands and tell them thank you for their service before I left.
Another little piece of history is that during this original death march, the soldiers felt like they were completely forgotten and alone. Before capture help hadn't arrived as promised. So they called themselves the Battling Bastards of Bataan. No mama, no papa, no Uncle Sam. Can you imagine feeling so alone and deserted by those you were out there fighting for? It wasn't until much later that they started getting the honor and recognition they deserved. It was almost 2 years after their capture before the American people were even told of their capture.
We are broken down into corrals, by the category we are "marching" in. The Wounded Warriors are the first group that go out. Here is shots of a few of them waiting to start. So many with artificial legs. And others suffered injuries that aren't visible but were just as severe in military service.
Many marchers (that's what they call us) wear something commemorating a family member or friend that served in the military in one war or another and has since passed on.
These two people had printed out a flier commemorating someone, put it in a plastic cover, and attached to their backs. A lot of others did the same thing.
This is the corral for the Honory, which is the group I was in. We are just doing the 15 mile, instead of the 26.2 mile. The rest of the corrals are different categories of 26.2 mile runners and walkers. People had not all settled into the corrals yet (many of them were still in long lines at the porta-potties LOL).
Working forward from the back the next group is the Civilian Light. These are non-military doing the 26.2 and without 35 lb packs. After that is the Civilian Heavy, who are doing it with the loaded backpacks. Most don't put them on until ready to start.
After that, working toward the front, is the Junior ROTC Light and the National Guard light. Many of us wore the drawstring backpacks or something to carry things in, and some of these did. But the ones in the Heavy category carried regular backpacks loaded with 35 lbs that is weighed the day before when picking up packets. Some do teams of 5 and some do individual. They recommend that they fill their backpack with 35 lbs of non perishable food such as beans, rice, noodles, dog food, and other things that they are encouraged after the race is finished to give to the organizers who donate it to the food bank in nearby Las Cruces for the homeless and poor.
Then we have the ROTC light and the Military light.
Then further up is the ROTC Heavy, the National Guard Heavy, and the Military Heavy. And at the front the Wounded Warriors.
Music playing while waiting for opening ceremonies to start.
When I arrived and got parked, a little after 5:00 am, it wasn't too cold and a light jacket with my t-shirt and shorts was enough. By 6 am though the temp dropped before the sun came up and everyone was moving around trying to stay warm and waiting for it to start. I felt like my legs were stiffening up and I kept moving around. During the time standing in the corral and during the opening ceremonies my back started hurting because standing is so much harder on it than walking for me. Then at 7, once the ceremonies were over, it too about 15 minutes to get the survivors in the vans and loaded and up to the start line, a little ways away. In the other 3 years I did this, once we started moving out of the corrals it was slow at first but we were moving at a slow steady pace. This year they were doing something different. I'm not sure what exactly but sending people across the sensors to start the timing at a much slower pace. We would stand and then move forward a few feet then stand some more and move forward a few more feet. It took another half hour once we started moving, about 7:15 to actually cross the start line about 7:45. That made my back hurt more.
Here we are very very slowly moving forward. Many people took the opportunity to duck out of line real quick as we passed the row of porta-potties since there wasn't any line for them anymore and they could get in their quick and back in line. I did that too LOL.
The mountains look nice in the morning sun.
I'll post more about in it another blog, with more pictures. This one is getting long and I've got to take my granddaughter to school and get busy with my job. I will tell you I did finish the 15 miles. Last year I had to drop out at mile 11, although I had finished it the 2 years prior to that. It wasn't easy, and this time I wasn't doing it as much to beat a time, as to offer support and thanks to our military men and women past and present. More about that in the next blog.