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.


 
 

 
Jolene Cooper, MVC

Homes await military Families: MVC has available housing in most post neighborhoods

Jolene Cooper, MVC A currently unoccupied home in Miles Manor 1 is available to a Family of a Service member E1 through E-6. Unlike most homes in that housing area, it is a single unit. All nearby homes are located less than a ...
 
 

Presidential Proclamation — National Native American Heritage Month, 2014

NATIONAL NATIVE AMERICAN HERITAGE MONTH, 2014 BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA A PROCLAMATION Every year, our Nation pauses to reflect on the profound ways the First Americans have shaped our country’s character and culture. The first stewards of our environment, early voices for the values that define our Nation, and models...
 
 

Garrison commander conducts Ebola Awareness Town Halls

The Fort Huachuca U.S. Army Garrison commander conducted two Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) Awareness Town Halls Nov. 13 at Murr Community Center to ensure all Installation Management Command (IMCOM) personnel are knowledgeable about the disease, its origins and spread. Col. Thomas A. Boone addressed attendees about the mandatory IMCOM Ebola training requirement, and said the...
 

 

IMCOM unveils plan for 2025 and beyond

SAN ANTONIO — The U.S. Army Installation Management Command released “IMCOM 2025 and Beyond,” a new campaign plan operationalizing the commanding general’s vision for the organization. This plan provides a roadmap for IMCOM’s future and serves as a change management document that focuses the command’s collective efforts, prioritizes resources and continues the exchange of informatio...
 
 

Recycle cooking oil, grease after Thanksgiving Day

After you’re done with the turkey and stuffing next week, take cooking oil and grease to be recycled at one of the two City of Sierra Vista year-round grease collection sites, free of charge. In previous years, Sierra Vista has set up a special grease collection site on the day after Thanksgiving. “This year, we’re...
 
 
Gary Sheftick

Native Americans place special honor in military service

Gary Sheftick Mary Hudetz, editor-in-chief of Native Peoples Magazine and president of the Native American Journalists Association, speaks to reporters and students at the Defense Information School, during the Defense Media Ac...
 




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=""> <strike> <strong>


Directory powered by Business Directory Plugin