As in years past, free accommodations will be offered within White Sands Missile Range during the annual Bataan Memorial Death March events March 19 to 20. Hostel-style lodging will be available at Bell Gym and dry camps will be offered at Volunteer Park, free of charge at a first come, first serve basis.
“It’s just something we offer to help our military members and civilians,” said WSMR Fitness Facility Manager Bill Velez. “We know a lot of the junior enlisted cannot afford a long stay.”
The gym is able to house close to 200 participants and the dry camp area that is offered for RVs and campers has never had to turn anyone away.
The gym becomes available to Bataan participants and spectators starting at 1 p.m. March 17. Only 80 cots are available, usually Velez said people bring their own cots or find a spot on the floor. Gym showers will be available for use during their stay. The gym will remain available to visitors until March 21 at 9 a.m.
Velez said this is a courtesy that the gym has been offering for the past 15 years. He expects visitors to adhere to a basic code of conduct. Before visitors leave the facility Velez said all borrowed cots should be cleaned up, placed back in the box they came from and stored where they were initially obtained. Military members who will be staying at the gym must follow their Charge of Quarters, also known as CQ, for their unit.
“We just ask that everyone respects each other,” Velez said.
Geraldine Bustos, WSMR recreation specialist who is in charge of the dry camp area, said the installation has offered this free service since Bataan has been held at WSMR. Bustos said the RV parks with hook-ups, which do require a fee, are usually reserved within the first ten minutes of it opening up to Bataan participants and spectators. The slots must be reserved 30 days before their stay. The fees for the hook-ups are $10 a night and $15 for overflow electricity.
The dry camp area, which is free of charge, is available for those who wish to park their RV or camp out during their stay. The area where individuals can set-up will be marked starting March 17. WSMR’s Outdoor Recreation items like campers and tents, which are usually available to rent will not be available for that weekend.
“Everything we have we’ll be using for the event,” said WSMR Recreation Assistant Anthony Luttrell.
Though the dry camps have never filled up in the past, the spots closest to the start and finish line do fill up fast.
“If you don’t get there by Friday then you won’t get a good spot,” said Charles Butler, a spectator who has camped out for Bataan.
For more information on free lodging during Bataan call Bell Gym at (575) 678-3374 or Outdoor Recreation at (575) 678-1713.