An organization aimed at bringing descendants of Bataan together, creating educational opportunities, and bringing closure along the way has been playing a major role in the Bataan Memorial Death March since the organization’s inception. Formerly known as the New Mexico Ex Prisoners of War, the New Mexico Guardians of Bataan have been making connections nationwide for over five years.
“We respectively took over…when the Defenders of Corregidor and Bataan handed us their legacy,” said organization president Lena Anderson.
The transition from the Defenders of Corregidor of Bataan to Guardians of Bataan occurred during the Bataan Memorial Death March five years ago. The Defenders handed the Guardians $25,000 and asked them to continue the legacy of the group. Currently, the organization has 150 members from around the world. Anderson, who is a great granddaughter of a Bataan survivor, said it is not a requirement to be a descendent of a Bataan Soldier just as long as the members share in the organization’s mission.
“Maintaining the legacy of survivors of Bataan (is our goal), anyone who is interested in doing that can be a member,” Anderson said.
Since the Guardians took over, three scholarships have been awarded and a High School curriculum titled, “Bataan in a Box” has been sent to all High Schools throughout New Mexico. Anderson said they have received praise from High Schools in Artesia and throughout Albuquerque. Currently, the organization is working on a project to preserve memories where survivors recall times when their Soldiers served in Bataan. The book of memories will mainly focus on descendants whose Soldiers never returned.
The goal of the organization is to be able to help descendants cope with emotions felt through either losing a family member during the war or having to deal with issues like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with survivors who returned home. Anderson, who is a spouse of a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, said she wants to be able to give the families avenues to cope with their emotions during time of war much like what military families currently have. The organization strives to be a sort of Family Readiness Group for descendants of Bataan.
“What I’m finding is that they share comfort in shared experiences or an experience that another survivor can relate to,” Anderson said. “They find peace in that connection.”
Though thousands of individuals participate in the event, Anderson said several individuals just come to observe the event and to be able to deal with their emotions. Anderson said the first thing most descendants do when a survivor dies is search for information about Bataan on the internet. Descendants who are in their late 60s will sometimes find information about the march and are hesitant to attend such a physically trying event. That is a major reason why, Anderson said, the organization was created as a way to join together and share stories and sentiments, a form of grief (healing) process without having to commit to marching over 13 miles.
“People show up because they want to deal with emotions and we act as a network and social connection,” Anderson said. “What we strive to do is we strive to provide a network opportunity without adding an extra burden onto the staff at White Sands Missile Range.”
The organization will hold their annual meeting during the weekend events leading up to the annual march. The annual meetings are held in conjunction with the event that honors Soldiers of Bataan because most of the members are either participating in the event or volunteering in some capacity.
For information on how to join or contribute to the organization, please contact Lena Anderson at (931) 249-1838.
3rd Annual Remember Always Dinner
5 p.m. cocktail hour
6 p.m. dinner semi-formal
1750 Calle De Mercado
Las Cruces, NM 88005
Professional Development Center