Over 5,600 participants were greeted with cheers and water by Las Cruces High School JROTC cadets as they completed the 26th annual Bataan Memorial Death March at White Sands Missile Range March 22.
Kevin Dasing, Commander, Sons of the American Legion Squadron 10 Las Cruces said having cadets at the finish point is key to giving back.
“Well a lot of us are veterans or sons of veterans. We always believe in giving back to the veterans, families and the community. This is the Sons’ water point; we have manned the finish water point for the last three years.”
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.
Cadet Maj. Justin Balderas, Las Cruces High School JROTC S3 said as a cadet it is important to understand the history of Bataan and volunteering is part of the JROTC corps values.
“Well for one you can come out with your friends, hang out and we are actually doing something important. You’re also honoring the real reason why this is happening with all these people coming out here remembering a huge event in our history.”
“Well it teaches them values of what my generation came up with. And it continues a tradition. Because when I’m gone these kids are going to continue this tradition of volunteering and supporting veterans and hopefully pass it on,” Dasing said.
Lisa Frankson, FMWR Bataan March Director, said that without the battalion of over 1,200 volunteers the annual Bataan Memorial Death March would not exist.
“We don’t have enough staff to support this size event. It is critical that we have volunteers. It wouldn’t happen without them. The amount of support and hours they give can’t be measured.”
Frankson also said the volunteer age groups vary but every year more and more younger volunteers can be seen all over the Bataan route.
“It’s very unique for the younger generation to volunteer for something like this. The fact that they are here in mass is wonderful and inspiring. They get it and it gives you hope.”
Balderas added the cadets were humbled to get to man the finish line with the Bataan March survivors.
“It surprised me to see they are here and how active they are. They are at the start point and finish point and they shake everyone’s hand, take photos and share their story. It has to be a huge honor to get to finish Bataan and be congratulated by a survivor from the actual event. And who knows maybe I will participate in the actual event one year.”
Bataan by the Numbers:
Over 1,200 Volunteers
120 Cases of Oranges
15 Cases of Bananas
25 Water Buffalos
1,600 hot dogs
800 chicken sandwiches
250 cases of bottled water
4,000 bags of potato chips
1,200 pounds of pasta
100 pounds of marinara sauce
2,500 slices of garlic bread
1,500 pounds of potato salad
6,000 chocolate chip cookies
150 pounds of sliced cheese
Heavy Category Marchers Donated
21,679 pounds of food = 18,740 meals
To the Las Cruces Roadrunner Foodbank