Salutes & Awards

March 22, 2013

Thunderbird Soldiers complete Bataan Memorial Death March to honor WWII survivors, fallen POWs

Staff Sgt. Kevin Giger, 11th Signal Brigade, left, and Maj. James Hepworth of the Australian Army walk along the route of the Bataan Memorial Death March in White Sands Missile Range, N.M., Sunday.

Most people would never consider paying money to go for a walk, let alone a march. Soldiers from the 11th Signal Brigade and others did exactly that at this year’s Bataan Memorial Death March at White Sands Missile Range, or WSMR, N.M. on Sunday. There, they marched to remember Soldiers who survived or died in the Philippine Islands at the hands of the Japanese during World War II.

The Bataan Memorial Death March is a grueling 26.2 mile course in which participants must traverse through thick sand, unforgiving hills and the brutal heat and wind of the WSMR.

This annual event is held to honor American and Filipino prisoners of war, or POWs, who were forced to relocate by the Imperial Japanese Army after the intense three-month-long battle of Bataan. The movement began on April 9, 1942. The route was harsh; the prisoners had little to no food or supplies and were forced to bury their dead. By the time they reached their destination, Camp O’Donnell, the casualty toll was nearly 10,000 POWs.

All elements from the 11th Signal Brigade were present for the march. The 11th Sig. Bde., Headquarters and Headquarters Company, and the 40th Expeditionary Signal Battalion participants traveled from Fort Huachuca. The 86th ESB participants traveled from Fort Bliss, Texas, and the 62nd ESB and 57th ESB participants traveled from Fort Hood, Texas.

Participants could complete either the 14.2-mile course or the full 26.2-mile course with or without a 35-pound pack.

Staff Sgt. Kevin Giger, 11th Sig. Bde. HHC, a native of Sacramento, Calif., said this was the second Bataan Memorial Death March he has completed.

“This is a grueling event, both physically and mentally, but it is for a great cause which honors those who actually took part in the real Bataan Death March,” said Giger.

Giger was part of the 11th Sig. Bde. HHC’s heavy team. The team of five each had to carry a pack weighing more than 35 pounds and finish within 20 seconds of one another.

The team began preparations for the event three months ago, marching at least three times a week including Saturdays, Giger explained.

From left, Sgt. Anthony Blagg, Staff Sgt. Kevin Giger, Capt. Aaron Gerlitz, Maj. James Hepworth and Chief Warrant Officer Christopher Crozier pose for a picture before beginning the Bataan Memorial Death March at White Sands Missile Range, N.M on Sunday. The team finished the 26.2-mile course with 35-pound packs in just over eight hours.

“The buildup of pain and stress gives you a tremendous amount of relief once you cross that finish line. I did this event again because I like the struggle of a course [of this length]. I love finishing with a team, and it is great to meet the survivors who can attend,” said Giger.

Maj. James Hepworth, a native of Katanning, Western Australia, was also on the team. Hepworth is in the Australian Army but is assigned to the 11th Sig. Bde. as the officer-in-charge of engineering.

“Being part of the 11th Signal Brigade team was a great feeling and being able to be a part of such a unique event with the U.S. military was a real privilege,” said Hepworth. “Australia also suffered the horrors of POW camps in World War II in the same region, most notable at Changi Prison, Singapore, on the Thai-Burma railway and at the Sandakan Death Marches.

“This part of history has huge significance for Australia, and it is important to mark the strength of our alliance in our shared military history,” he added.

According to Hepworth, the opening roll call of Bataan survivors was the most emotional part of the experience.

“Being able to shake the hands of the survivors and to hear the roll call with Soldiers present saying, ‘here,’ and marking silence for the Soldiers who did not make it home was very powerful to me,” he said.

The team took approximately eight hours and 15 minutes to complete the 26.2-mile course, but it was not about time, according to Hepworth.

“I did this to bond with my teammates, to be part of something worthwhile, to attempt a challenge we were not sure we could do and to mark an important part of history and the sacrifice of Soldiers who have given us the freedom we enjoy today,” said Hepworth.

Those feeling up to the challenge of completing this honorary event should mark their calendars. The next march is slated for March 23, 2014.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
photo-2

USAEPG responds to Army radio test needs

A dismounted tester and a Humvee with the SRW-A radio mounted inside collect evaluation data on the radio is shown with the Huachuca Mountains in the background on Dec. 12. The U.S. Army Electronic Proving Ground, USAEPG, recen...
 
 
U.S. Army photo

Army puts Gray Eagle, One System Remote Video Terminal through test

U.S. Army photo The MQ-1C Gray Eagle, the Army’s largest unmanned aircraft system in the inventory, recently underwent follow-on test and evaluation, which culminated June 14 at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Cal...
 
 
Natalie Lakosil

HT-JCOE commanders change during June 19 ceremony

From left, outgoing Commander Col. John Boucher, Human Intelligence Training Joint Center of Excellence; Maj. Gen. Robert Ashley, commanding general, U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence and Fort Huachuca; and incoming C...
 

 

BLM Jackson Hotshots hosted at Fort Huachuca for portion of 2015 fire season

TUCSON, Ariz. — The only Bureau of Land Management (BLM) hotshot firefighting crew east of the Mississippi River will be based in southern Arizona for a portion of the 2015 fire season. The 20-member Jackson Hotshot crew from Jackson, Miss. will be housed in the Sierra Vista community thanks to a partnership between BLM and...
 
 

Fort Huachuca Exchange partners with Sears for savings

The Army & Air Force Exchange Service is teaming up with Sears to offer military shoppers special savings on cleaning, home improvement and repair services. Fort Huachuca Exchange shoppers can now receive special offers on cleaning services including: carpets, upholstery, protector and deodorizer for carpet and upholstery, title and grout, air ducts, dryer vents and...
 
 
Mike Williams

Monsoon season is here — use caution when going outdoors

Mike Williams Water races across the road near the Bonnie Blink housing area on post during a monsoon storm last summer. Before crossing, be sure your vehicle has the clearance to make it through a wash if it has water in it. E...
 




One Comment


  1. I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank everyone who participated in the Bataan Death March Memorial honoring the memory of my wife’s grandfather Clifton Herlin Lee who was captured at Bataan serving in the US Army, held as a P.O.W. in Japan, and eventually retired as a Civil Servant right here at Ft. Huachuca in the 1980s. Grandpa Lee passed away in 1998. Thank you all.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>