March 12, 2013 by Tonya Suther, NMSU News Center
More than 60 Army ROTC cadets and cadre from New Mexico State University will mark a tragic historical event with a grueling marathon. The 24th annual Bataan Memorial Death March is slated for March 16-17, at White Sands Missile Range.
The Bataan Memorial Death March is a 26.2-mile trek that loops through sandy desert terrain to honor service members who defended the Philippine Islands during World War II. There is also an honor course for participants, which is the first half of the march.
“The Bataan Memorial Death March was an idea by an NMSU Army ROTC cadet, Ray Pickering, now a retired Lieutenant Colonel, to ensure the legacy of the Battling Bastards of Bataan would never be forgotten,” said Army ROTC Commander Lt. Col. Andrew Taylor. “The over 1,800 soldiers of the New Mexico Army National Guard’s 200th Coast Artillery, anti-aircraft, were the first to fire in defense of the Philippines, and were the last organized unit to be surrendered before the infamous death march. Their suffering had just begun and would last over the next three and a half years as prisoners of the Japanese, and the rest of their lives.”
Prior to Sunday’s march, 20 cadets will conduct two historical seminars at 2:30 and 4 p.m. Saturday, March 16. They will also escort Bataan survivors to the seminar and various locations on White Sands.
On Sunday, March 17, the Bataan Battalion will kick off the march by providing a crew to fire the cannon. Then, a cadet, wearing a replica uniform, will take part in the tribute on the main stage.
There are three NMSU teams registered for the trek, two male and one female. Two cadre members will also participate. Last year, an all-male team from NMSU took the top prize in the ROTC Light division.
Cadets and cadre will also hand out water and fruit at checkpoint 6.
The cadets geared up for the weekend through annual physical training activities and several seminar rehearsals. As part of their physical training, cadets took part in ruck sack marches, where they marched seven miles, carrying more than 35 pounds in their backpacks.
In the first official march, Pickering planned to have 25 cadets march 25 miles. They began at the NMSU Horseshoe and marched up to Dripping Springs. From there, they paralleled the front range of the Organ Mountains, and trekked up to Baylor Canyon and then went over the pass to Aguirre Springs.
“In 1989, the Department of the Army officially designated NMSU Army ROTC as the Bataan Battalion,” Taylor said. “Our new Bataan Battalion patch was unveiled during last year’s 70th anniversary ceremonies by those Bataan survivors present. We will Remember Bataan…Always!”