The Bataan Memorial Death March, one of White Sands Missile Range’s most nationally recognized events, is executed successfully each year through the efforts of hundreds of dedicated volunteers from the surrounding area.
WSMR Chief of Recreation Sue Staub said over 800 volunteers, not including water point volunteers, help make the memorial march the success that it is every year.
“We rely heavily on the volunteers,” Staub said. “We can’t do the march without those volunteers in critical positions.”
Due to the popularity of the event, which focuses on the struggles of World War II prisoners of war who had to endure a grueling and inhumane march to the camps, volunteer registration opens up at about the same time as the actual march registration opens. This year, both the march registration and volunteer registration will open earlier. The volunteer registration site is scheduled to be available by November. Staub encourages those who wish to volunteer to register early because she said on average the positions usually fill up within three months.
“It’s a first come first serve for registration,” Staub said. “We try not to get more volunteers than we need.”
Once a volunteer registers online they will be contacted by WSMR IMCOM. Administration Assistant Shelly Lowe, is in charge of ensuring volunteers register properly and of providing roles and responsibilities for volunteers at next year’s memorial march. This is Lowe’s first year working with the volunteers and she said she hopes people understand how unique the event is and what an opportunity volunteering for the event is.
“This is a great experience,” Lowe said. “You get to meet new people from all over the world and you get to meet the survivors. To meet them and their families and understand what they went through is a great learning experience for anyone. It humbles you.”
Specific volunteer jobs will be listed on the memorial march website under the volunteer tab. Volunteer positions vary from food line servers, trash pickup, packet stuffers, in-processing assistance, and several different roles on the day of the march. Food line servers are required to have their food handler certification. Volunteer hours may range from two hours to six hours a day.
Staub said it is important to commit to the hours you volunteer for because there is no one who can replace you on the day of the event. She said last year they had five no-shows for critical roles on the day of the event, which caused them to scramble to find replacements.
“Be willing to have a smile on your face and be willing to work a long busy day,” Staub said.
Other volunteer roles in medical fields and in regard to water points are handled through each respective organization. Each water point has been grandfathered in by an organization that has been manning the water point since the memorial march moved to WSMR property. Those who wish to volunteer at the water point should contact the organization in charge of the water point. Medical volunteers are vetted through WSMR McAfee Health Clinic.