More than 5,600 marchers had the honor of shaking hands with a Bataan Death March survivor before beginning their 26.2 mile trek in the New Mexico Desert March 22 during the Bataan Memorial Death March at White Sands Missile Range.
“Today we have ten American survivors here sitting in front of you. They stand as a living testament to the memory of Bataan,” said WSMR Commander Brig. Gen. Timothy Coffin during the opening ceremony. “They faced physical and spiritual hardships that for many were too great to bear. 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.”
The Bataan Memorial Death March is a 26.2 mile event held annually at White Sands Missile Range in honor of the individuals who survived and those who died during the World War II death march at the hands of the Japanese in 1942 on the Bataan Peninsula in the Philippines.=
Following the ceremony marchers took off but not before taking the time to stop to shake hands with a survivor, and thank them for their sacrifice.
“Coming to WSMR is now my pilgrimage. I’m privileged to be able to make my 8th trip to White Sands,” said Col. Ben Skardon, a Bataan survivor who has marched 8.5 miles for the last 8 years.
“They disrupted the enemy’s timetable. They crippled the Japanese War efforts. They kept the faith. They held on, dug deep, and found a reservation of strength and courage,” said Margaret Garcia, daughter of deceased Bataan Memorial Death March survivor Evans Garcia. “If dad was here today he’d say… ‘well it wasn’t all bad. Let me tell you the pros’,” she said.
Also present were several Wounded Warriors, Ambassador of the Republic of the Philippines to the United States, Jose Cuisia, U.S. Senator (D-NM) Martin Heinrich and U.S. Representative (D-NM) Steve Pearce.