White Sands Missile Range’s largest event, the Bataan Memorial Death March is made possible through the assistance of thousands of volunteers.
WSMR Installation Management Command Administration Assistant Shelly Lowe, who runs the volunteer program for the event, said over 1,200 volunteers help make the memorial march the success that it is every year.
“Without them we couldn’t do it,” Lowe said. “We appreciate every one of them. They help make Bataan successful.”
Volunteers from every field came out to support Bataan. These included medic volunteers, emergency services volunteers, and volunteers to man water stations, some as young as seven years old.
“Since the first time I came out here it’s been so impactful so I keep coming back,” said Ryan Francis, a volunteer with First Light Federal Credit Union.
Francis said he had to report to his water station, water station 2A, at 4:30 a.m. From 4:30 a.m. the station stays consistently busy and closes up shortly after 98-year-old Bataan survivor and prisoner of war retired Col. Ben Skardon marches through.
“I try to pick and choose where I volunteer and to only volunteer in what I believe in,” said Eduardo Mata, a volunteer who is stationed at Holloman Air Force Base. “As long as we’re here we’ll keep coming back.”
Mata and his wife volunteered at water stations three and nine. This is known as the busiest water station because they have marchers who are just getting started crossing with marchers who are nearly done. Mata said he and his wife decided to volunteer because they thought it was a worthwhile event. He said he was truly inspired by the event as a whole, especially being able to see Skardon completing his 8.5 mile march.