KRWG-TV News22. Mar 29, 2011: News22′s Martin Burch shows how thousands of marathon runners are honoring a shrinking number of very special World War II veterans.
April 4, 2011 by Donyelle Kesler, NMSU News Center
After more than two decades, members of New Mexico State University’s Army ROTC continue to play an integral role in what is considered one of the toughest marathons in the United States. Along with the New Mexico Army National Guard and White Sands Missile Range, NMSU’s Army ROTC sponsored, as well as participated in the 22nd annual Bataan Memorial Death March held March 27 at the White Sands Missile Range.
What began as an idea in 1989 by then-NMSU Army ROTC cadet (now retired Lt. Col.) Ray Pickering has become a military tradition, with a record number of nearly 6,400 runners participating this year. The 26-mile march commemorates the veterans of the original 70-mile Bataan Death March that took place in the jungle terrain of the Bataan Peninsula in the Philippines during World War II.
“The NMSU Army ROTC was officially named by the Army as the ‘Bataan Battalion’ in 1989. We take this designation very seriously and began the Bataan Memorial Death March in the same year,” Army ROTC Lt. Col. Andrew Taylor said. “Twenty-two years later, it is even more important that the sacrifices of the American and Filipino military in the Bataan Campaign are not forgotten.”
This year, both a male and co-ed ROTC military light team from NMSU participated in the marathon. In addition, 25 cadets and three cadre from NMSU Army ROTC hosted a water point just over the halfway mark of the course. On the Saturday before the march, the group sponsored two presentations of the Battle for Bataan for veterans. Veterans not only were invited to the performance but also asked to participate in discussion groups afterward. Cadets assisted the veterans for these activities, acting as escorts and drivers for the Bataan survivors and their families.
“It has been said many times by many people that those who forget their past are doomed to repeat it,” Taylor said. “NMSU Army ROTC’s motto is ‘Remember Bataan, always.’”